Cattle producers will be able to access basic data from the now privatized Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS), but may have to pay for some types of information, says the head of the company.
“BIXS is totally voluntary, just like the Internet,” said Hubert Lau, president and CEO of BIXSco. “You can use the Internet and do all kinds of things, and it doesn’t cost you any money. But you can also go to the Internet and buy things. That’s your choice. We want to create those choices.”
BIXSco was formed when the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association struck a partnership deal with Edmonton-based ViewTrak Technologies earlier this winter. The association contributed the cattle database — which has been plagued by technical issues and slow uptake — with ViewTrak agreeing to revamp it and make it more useful to producers, feedlots, and other players in the beef value chain.
The two partners are still working on the funding model, and no final decisions have been made, said Lau. But ViewTrak is now paying the bills as the government funding which created BIXS has run out.
The priority at the moment is meeting with ranchers, industry associations, packers, and others in the industry in a bid to bring them on board.
There has been a good reception from industry players, but cattle producers still have many questions, said Lau.
“When producers ask me why they should support BIXS, I tell them our goal is to create a larger market for you, so you have the ability to do more for your business,” he said. “I’m not there to tell you how to do it, or force you to do something. I’m here to enable you to do more. And the way we do that is by opening more data flows.”
One of the most frequently asked questions from producers is whether they will still be able to use their herd management software, and Lau said the revamped BIXS will work with the programs producers are using.
It will also work seamlessly with the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s database, he said.
“BIXS didn’t have enough technical resources to work with the CCIA resources, so that caused a whole host of integration issues that caused problems for users,” he said.
The company is also working with McDonald’s Canada, which has decided to use BIXS for its verified sustainable beef pilot project.
“It’s not the technical part of BIXS that could be the holdup,” said Lau. “It’s actually the definition of verified sustainable beef. We’re confident we can meet the tech needs as long as we have enough time to meet the definition of verified sustainable beef.”
Lau also said ViewTrak has sold its herd management software to a co-operative in Ontario because it didn’t want BIXS to be viewed as a competitor to other cattle software providers.
BIXSco wants to see veterinarians and breeders participating in the database and is considering how it might create data that others, such as auctions or government agencies, would be willing to pay for, he added.