BIXS reboot expected to ease access to carcass data

Ranchers who don’t double as computer geeks may be pleased to hear that the Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) is due for an update aimed at smoothing out its rough edges.

Larry Thomas, the national co-ordinator for the program supported by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), said that after almost two years in operation, the online database that serves up a range of carcass information based on RFID tag data is due for an overhaul.

“When you build anything this big and complicated, you’ve got to find out what is and isn’t working and decide where you’re going,” said Thomas.

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About six months ago, BIXS staff started reviewing feedback from users with an eye on streamlining the process and making it easier to import and export data.

The initial version was aimed at getting a workable system out the door fast that would show the industry what was possible before zeroing in on refinements. “BIXS 2.0” will be ready for launch this fall, and will be followed by a further amended system a few weeks later.

“It’s a redesign that will be much easier and much faster to engage with. It’ll basically be a couple of clicks and validation information and away you go,” said Thomas.

The CCA has contracted Arcurve, a Calgary-based software developer, to create the next version.

Last winter the BIXS team began a process to evaluate the current version of the system, to pinpoint shortcomings and decide on a path forward.

The team interviewed commercial beef industry software development and service firms, packers, feedlots, retail interests, existing value chains and others to discover the precise benefits needed from BIXS.

Thus the next version of BIXS is expected to be smaller and more nimble than the current version. Import and export functionality will be improved and it will handle many thousands of users and millions of records.

BIXS 2.0 will key only on cross-segment data of economic importance and avoid duplicating existing commercial software systems and services. And the next version will enable blind queries using a Sourcer Utility, which enables cross-segment communication based on individual animal or carcass data or health and management protocols.

Thomas couldn’t say how may ranchers are logging on to the system currently, but did peg the number at well short of “critical mass.”

“Ideally, we’d like to have over 5,000 users of the system, but we aren’t there,” he said.

However, data already in the system amounts to 2.4 million carcass records going back to 2011 from Cargill and JBS plants, as well as 140,000 cow-calf records. More feedlot data is needed, but Thomas believes that third-party providers are waiting for the fully refined version to launch before they invest time and money in building their own complementary systems.

The new version will be animal-centric, where actions are applied to animals and recorded across their lifetime up to detailed carcass data acquisition.

— Daniel Winters is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Oak Lake, Man. A version of this article appeared in the Aug. 22, 2013 issue.

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