Second version of beef database launched

Wonky first version has been scrapped and creators of BIXS 2.0 
say the new edition of the database is vastly improved

BIXS 2.0 has been launched and is vastly superior to its ill-fated predecessor, says the national co-ordinator with the Beef Info Xchange System.

“We had to make BIXS more user friendly,” said Larry Thomas. “It had to be compact, fast and on a different platform, and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association needed to own it outright.”

A reliable and easy-to-use database to capture data from pasture to packing plant is considered by many to be critical to the future success of the Canadian beef sector, and was one of the key recommendations of the Straw Man Beef Industry Initiative task force.

“It is imperative that the common repository be operational, efficient and sustainable,” the task force said in its December report Building a Stronger Canadian Beef Industry.

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FAQs on BIXS 2.0

The report recommended the creators of the system be given “until March 2014 to demonstrate that this database and service offering will meet the requirements of the industry.”

The launch of BIXS 2.0 was quietly announced March 28, and Thomas said it is performing well.

The database logs data linked to RFID tags and can include birth dates, premise ID (if the producer chooses to enter it), weight at arrival of a feedlot and departure, slaughter date, hot carcass weight, and grading information. In some cases, “tens of thousands of pieces of information” are uploaded at a time, said Thomas. BIXS 1.0 had trouble handling such volumes. That also prevented many producers who didn’t have high-speed Internet access from using the system.

“That (old) process sometimes would take hours or days,” he said. “In our case (with BIXS 2.0), we’ve seen 3,000 or 4,000 head come over in 15 seconds.”

Old system discontinued

After a lengthy review, the old system was put on hiatus in December 2013.

“We got it to the point where we were getting carcass data to producers linked to that CCIA tag ID,” said Thomas. “But it wasn’t fulfilling what we hoped it would, and we weren’t getting the uptake that we needed.”

Arcurve, a software company from Calgary, was hired to build the new version and did testing with some producers prior to the March 28 soft launch.

The program is free and all of the old BIXS 1.0 accounts have been moved to the new system, which can be accessed by going to www.bixs.cattle.ca. First-time users should email [email protected] for sign-up information.

There is currently data from about 460,000 animals in the BIXS 2.0 system submitted by cow-calf producers and feedlots, and about 2.8 million detailed carcass records, provided by Cargill’s High River and Guelph plants as well as the JBS plant in Brooks.

The latter contains data such as rib-eye marbling area, carcass score, quality grade, fat thickness, and hot carcass weight.

“This is information that a lot of cow-calf producers have never seen on their animal,” said Thomas.

That data holds the promise of allowing producers to select genetics and make changes in their management to produce higher-value cattle — although getting a premium is still uncharted territory.

“BIXS enables better communication between the cow-calf, feedlot, packing and distribution sectors on an individual animal basis and offers a way for producers to develop business relationships,” states the BIXS website.

“As those business relationships form, premiums may indeed come. The Sourcer Utility query function built into BIXS will spur the development of these business relationships and may well pave the way to premiums being paid for animals meeting a certain spec BIXS member feedlots, buyers, packer/processors and distributors are seeking.”

The system could also connect producers with buyers of premium beef, said Thomas.

“If I’m a boutique retailer and I’m looking for something specific, how can I use BIXS to get in touch with those who produce it?” he said.

“In other words, there’s never really been anything in the industry on a national basis anywhere, that I know of, that would enable blind query of a database in a confidential manner, that would enable me to link up with suppliers for stuff I actually need,” said Thomas.

BIXS 2.0 works on most browsers. The project team is currently making BIXS 2.0 applications for iPhone, iPad and mobile Android systems.

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