Beef farmers could boost profits by £100 a head and collectively save £650m a year in feed costs by finishing more animals in-spec – and a free app may help.
Breedr – the brainchild of an Australian beef farmer – measures and monitors individual cattle data and predicts optimum finishing times based on actual growth rates.
In addition, the app helps farmers form private integrated supply chains, removing unnecessary costs and improving transparency.
The software, which was developed in the UK, has already had 900 farmers sign up to use its services.
"Analysis of their kill-sheets shows that 79% of their cattle hit top specification versus an industry average of 55%,” Breedr founder Ian Wheal said.
"If you roll that out across the UK beef sector, that’s 474,320 more animals in prime beef spec each year.”
In addition, farmers who have been using the app finish their cattle five months earlier than the industry average, saving 1.8t of feed per head and reducing their carbon footprint by 20%.
“There are a lot of changes coming down the pipeline for UK beef producers – and proving the value and quality of our beef will be vital,” added Mr Wheal.
“Out-of-spec beef leads to a poor consumer experience, but data silos throughout the supply chain make it really hard for farmers to get feedback.
"Our app facilitates that flow of information so that finishers, store producers and calf rearers can all identify the best genetics, best management and best suppliers to improve productivity every step of the way.”
The phone app syncs with the British Cattle Movement Service to carry all the information about animals in a herd.
Producers can scan an electronic ID or enter passport information to see everything about an animal, with the ability to record medicine usage to Red Tractor standards.
Beef producer and Breedr product manager James Wright said the most valuable feature was weight recording and predicted finishing dates.
“You can manually or automatically read weights in Crush Mode and based on actual growth rates predict the optimum slaughter date.
"This means you can plan your feeding, sales and cash flow. It’s made my herd management so much easier,” he said.
Anonymous benchmarking against comparable farms and having proven weigh data means producers can improve efficiencies and command a premium for their finished stock.
In addition, they can take a loan secured on the value of their cattle to cover the cost of feed or replacements, and sell direct to a processor through the app, which relays processor demand for spot or forward purchasing.
Doug Dear contract finishes 2,000 cattle a year at Osgodby Grange, Selby, Yorkshire, and has helped to fine-tune the app over the past two years.
“Data is king – we can record feed conversion efficiencies and growth rates, and measure the impact of any changes in diet,” he said.
“We can anticipate when cattle are going to be ready, meaning we know when space will become available for store suppliers – everything is at the touch of a button.”
Breedr takes a 1-3% commission on sales made through the app, and organises all transport and payments.