Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 27, 2000

Farmers soon will be able to go online to find best bull markets

A new customized, interactive Web site developed by University of Guelph researchers will soon permit farmers to surf the ‘Net to find bulls anywhere in Ontario with the sort of genes that will produce the steak qualities their particular markets prefer.

Until now, predicting the kind of cut -- lean or highly-marbled -- and the kind of profits that a sire will produce have been largely guesswork. But thanks to the Guelph team, farmers will be able to go online to shop the genetic traits of individual bulls, find what bulls would best suit their operation and the markets they are targeting, and see how their bottom line will benefit buying one bull over another. While beef production will improve (and hence the support of Beef Improvement Ontario (BIO) in this project), the country's steak eaters are the ultimate beneficiaries.

That's because two key factors dominate steak marketability: marbling and muscle size.

"Different clients prefer different cuts: for instance the "white tablecloth" crowd, the Keg chain of restaurants as well as other steakhouses like more highly marbled steaks," says animal and poultry science professor Steve Miller, who along with fellow professor Jim Wilton, and research associates Marc Lazenby, Larry Banks and Steve Klinge, developed the interactive "BIO-Mate" Web site. "Grocery stores, on the other hand, prefer leaner-looking meat. With this Web site, farmers can go to an independent one-stop source to select bulls that will produce progeny best suited to the market the farmers are targeting."

Miller says that currently many Canadian steakhouses are obliged to go to the United States for the highly marbled steaks their clients prefer. With BIO-Mate, farmers in the future could mate breeding beef cows with sires tipped to produce calves with marbled flesh and so capture more of that particular niche market.

Using inputted information from the farmer against genetic profiles of all the available bulls in the province, BIO-Mate produces a detailed list of bulls in the province with the sort of qualities the producer is looking for.

While perhaps the average consumer only considers their beef preference while perusing the meat section of the supermarket, farmers know the answer begins with the genetic traits of the bull whose progeny will eventually end up on the dinner plate.

In the past, farmers choosing sires were forced to guess what sort of traits any given bull might produce based on limited information. More recently, advances in genetic evaluation have given producers much more information about individual bulls -- sometimes producing information overload for the buyer.

So as part of the BIO-Mate Web site, the Guelph research team developed a ranking system called Predicted Dollar Difference (PDD). This system combines inputted information from farmers about their operation with an array of genetic variables for all the available bulls in Ontario to produce potential profits for farmers should they choose a given bull.

With bulls costing on average $2,500 but as much as $10,000, the choice is critical to the success of a producer's operation.

For now, the Web site will list only Ontario bulls, but the developers hope to expand to other markets in Canada and the United States in the near future.

This project is funded by Beef Improvement Ontario and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Prof. Steve Miller Department of Animal and Poultry Science University of Guelph Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock 519-824-4120, Ext. 6378 From July 12-14: 316-293-1234

Prof. Jim Wilton Department of Animal and Poultry Science University of Guelph Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock 519-824-4120, Ext. 3647

For media information, contact Alexander Wooley, Communications and Public Affairs, 519-824-4120, Ext. 6982.

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