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High-tech 'brand' to track cattle information

Jacqueline Nix/Getty Images Cattle on pasture
HIGH-TECH TRACKING: Two companies are partnering to create a system for connecting management information to individual beef cattle. That information, using blockchain technology, could add value to cattle in the future.
Blockapps and Genesis-Blockchain for Beef partner to tie data to animal from birth to harvest.

The cattle industry captures a lot of information about the animals being raised — birth weights, feed intake, rates of gain and more. A new partnership is looking at ways to make sure all that information stays with the animal, providing buyers along the way critical data as needed.

Blockapps — a blockchain tech company that recently worked with Bayer Crop Science to create TraceHarvest for tracking seed information — is getting into the beef business. Genesis-Blockchain for Beef is teaming with Blockapps to create a new system for tracking data to each animal.

“There are some convergent technologies in the beef industry,” says Sid Siefken, director of business development for Blockapps. “Electronic identification resides with the calf, and companies like AllFlex have RFID tags.”

Siefken recalls the origin of branding to identify cattle on the range. Today, a lot of other information is available about each animal, from its genetic background to how it’s being raised.

“Now, I know exactly where it calved; I know some individual identifying information due to the EID tag. And now we’re going to pull that into a blockchain environment, so we have that beginning record on that animal,” he says.

The blockchain is a secure record of transactions or actions that can be connected to an individual item, like a calf. Electronic information can be connected to that blockchain, and anyone viewing the information will know it’s verified and accurate due to the traceability of the blockchain.

Siefken acknowledges that the earliest days of a single calf’s life and treatment may not make the digital record, but as it’s weaned, preconditioned and moves forward, that information can be captured. However, he says there’s hesitancy regarding the new technology.

“When an animal hits the sale barn, what do we know about it?” he asks. “Typically, what we know is the reputation of the seller.”

With this new system, the buyer can have access to accurate, detailed information about the animal. And with rising consumer interest in where food comes from, more information about how the animal has been treated could add value.

Managing a lot of data

Hannah Garrett, founder and CEO of Genesis-Blockchain for Beef, says this new program is designed to be a “customer-centric data solution for cattle producers.” She notes the system is designed to make it easy to add a lot of data at one time.

“That’s important in terms of day-to-day work because we don’t work our cattle every day,” she says. “But when we do, we amass a ton of data, and we have to have a place to go with that data.”

Consider those days when you work all your cow-calf pairs, or when separating calves for weaning and preconditioning. That’s a big bubble of information that needs to be linked to each animal, on top of the physical work.

“In terms of the approaches that progressive ranchers are taking right now, they’re doing treatments and following protocols to add value, but currently there’s no way to track that through the system, through the supply chain,” Garrett explains.

Moving the data, at least at this stage, involves the rancher dropping data from the RFID wand into that software, and then uploading it directly to the Genesis platform, Garrett says.

“That gets pulled in through an Excel spreadsheet, and it will upload all the information at one time,” she notes. “Phase 2 for us will be to use a built-in API where once the RFID reader gets back to a Wi-Fi connection, it will automatically push into the Genesis cloud. And then we’ll go in to approve that data set, and then it will automatically be on the platform.”

Users of the Genesis network — both cattle producers and buyers — can have a complete record of the treatment of that animal, Garrett says.

“Every treatment and vaccine, and every action that is applied to the animal’s record has that unique information in the audit log. And that continues to drive value and validity into the records, and the data that flows through those cattle,” she says.

When the packer markets the animal product to the wholesaler, Garrett says the producer “can prove our sustainability standards, our treatment standards, our antibiotic husbandry and use. That really ties into what the consumer is wanting by validating the story.”

She adds that in the future, blockchain-verified cattle records could help build a premium. In a feedyard, cattle with those detailed, verified electronic records might be sold separately to buyers looking for that information.

Blockchain technology is advancing into agriculture in new ways. Genesis-Blockchain for Beef is another step in enhanced record keeping for the industry. Learn more at genesisbeefdata.com. To learn more about Blockapps, visit blockapps.net.

TAGS: Livestock
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