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Technology in the Canadian beef industry

By in Opinions
Gabriel Becker plays with calves in their pen at his grandparent’s farm in the summer of 2019. | Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

Precision agriculture, machine learning and satellite imagery are all words that come to mind when considering new technologies in the Canadian agriculture industry. But what do these three things have in common? They are primarily used in the field crop production sector.

In the 2016 Census of Agriculture, oilseed and grain-type farms made up 33 per cent of all farms in Canada. Technology is clearly important in the Canadian crop sector, but what role can it play in our beef industry? 

As of 2016, beef operations accounted for 18.6 per cent of farms in our country with the Prairies representing over 80 per cent of the total beef in Canada. This makes it a topic that is close to home since we live in Saskatoon. 

While there are many emerging technology-based applications in agriculture, drones and radio-frequency identification are two technological innovations used within the Canadian beef industry. 

Drones can be used to fly above herds of cattle when pasture access is difficult. Water troughs, which are essential to cattle, can be checked using this technology as well, helping to ensure herd health. Both time and labour, often at the expense of the farmer, are being saved using this technology. It’s no wonder why drone technology is becoming increasingly popular among cattle producers.

The traceability of cattle is another part of the beef industry that benefits from new technology. The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency is responsible for giving specific identification numbers from the Canadian Livestock Tracking System database to approved animal indicator manufacturers. These companies are in charge of creating the animal indicators used in cattle across the country. Animal indicators — also known as ear tags — are yellow button tags that contain a transponder. 

Every calf born in Canada will get one of these small yellow tags to identify which farm it was born. These tags use radio-frequency identification technology, which allows farmers to scan the tag to identify the animal.  

Each animal has a specific identification assigned to their tag. The tags are passive, meaning they do not have internal power, and therefore, they charge and transmit information only when the reader is present. The unique ID number of each animal remains with that animal for the duration of its life until meat inspection or export. 

Technology is rapidly expanding in many industries across our country, and agricultural practices are no stranger to innovative technology. With new technologies on the horizon, it is an exciting time to be involved in the agriculture industry. 

For more information about Canadian beef, including production practices and beef nutrition, please visit: https://www.raisingcdnbeef.ca/ 

Amy Carruthers

Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

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