“When people think about beef,” says Dr. Stephen Miller at the University of Guelph, “they usually think of cowboys and the west.” But Dr. Miller points out that 20 percent of Canada’s feedlot capacity is here in Ontario—and a much greater percentage of the national market. Beef is important to the province, and researchers at the University of Guelph are using some high-tech tools to provide support for Ontario producers.
A key focus of the research is on efficiency of production. At a new test facility, funded in part with an investment by the Ontario Innovation Trust, researchers are using sophisticated equipment to monitor the feed habits of a test herd of 192 cattle. Radio frequency identification tags attached to each animal communicate with sensors on 12 feed bins to provide detailed information on when and how long the cattle feed. When this data is combined with information on weight gain and the final quality of the meat, researchers are able to analyze a variety of feed strategies to see which is most efficient. “Feed efficiency also has an environmental factor,” says Dr. Miller. “If you can produce the same amount of beef with less feed, that also means less manure and methane.”