New MSA trial on track

Study may lead to $50M boon for north­ern beef cat­tle pro­duc­ers

Central and North Rural Weekly - - RAIL RESEARCH - . AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­

IF A MSA trial is a suc­cess, north­ern gra­ziers could reap a $50 mil­lion re­ward.

That’s the opin­ion of Meat Stan­dards Aus­tralia pro­gram man­ager Sarah Stra­chan when dis­cussing a new study on how long-dis­tance rail trans­port af­fects the eat­ing qual­ity of beef, with the aim of open­ing up path­ways for MSA cat­tle.

“Thou­sands of north­ern cat­tle are trans­ported to slaugh­ter by rail through ma­jor truck­ing yards at Clon­curry, Lon­greach and Quilpie each year, how­ever, cur­rent MSA time to slaugh­ter re­quire­ments ren­der these cat­tle in­el­i­gi­ble for MSA grad­ing,” Ms Stra­chan said.

“The out­comes of this re­search will in­form the MSA grad­ing model so we can ac­cu­rately pre­dict the eat­ing qual­ity of these cat­tle.

“The $50 mil­lion fig­ure is based on re­turns go­ing back to pro­duc­ers over the last 12 months, it’s the price dif­fer­en­tial be­tween a MSA and non-MSA an­i­mal, it’s 21 cents per kilo­gram.

“The es­ti­mate is on what we think will go back to pro­duc­ers in ad­di­tional farm-gate re­turns.”

The re­search is part of MSA’s 2020 goals, set by the MSA task­force, to make all path­ways cat­tle travel to slaugh­ter el­i­gi­ble for MSA grad­ing.

Stage one of the project di­rectly com­pares the re­sults of cat­tle that trav­elled to slaugh­ter by rail to those trans­ported by road.

A to­tal of 240 trial cat­tle were sourced from two prop­er­ties around Quilpie, with half trav­el­ling to Bris­bane by train and the rest by road.

The Quilpie cat­tle rail line was re­opened in 2016, after be­ing off­line for 23 years.

Fol­low­ing MSA grad­ing, four cuts will be col­lected from each car­case and pre­pared for sen­sory test­ing with al­most 9000 con­sumers over the next two years.

The taste tests will roll out in the next cou­ple of months.

“The rea­son we are tak­ing the study over two years is be­cause we want to com­pare two sea­sons,” Ms Stra­chan said. “We want to get that repet­i­tive sci­en­tific data so we can val­i­date the im­pacts on eat­ing qual­ity.”

While not mak­ing pre­dic­tions on what the re­sults may re­veal, Ms Stra­chan said cat­tle han­dling was al­ways a vi­tal step in pro­duc­ing a top qual­ity end prod­uct.

“Stud­ies on long-dis­tance road trans­port in the past have in­di­cated the han­dling of cat­tle on farm pre travel was crit­i­cal,” she said.

“The pro­ducer plays a huge role in how the cat­tle per­form on our eat­ing-qual­ity in­dex.”

Stage two of the rail study is more com­plex than the first.

“We will study long dis­tances and ex­tended travel times with vari­a­tions to rail and truck­ing travel in­clud­ing in­ter­mit­tent rest and feed regimes to eval­u­ate the im­pact of var­i­ous rest and re­cov­ery strate­gies,” Ms Stra­chan said.

“The MSA pro­gram is work­ing to­wards grad­ing 50 per cent of the na­tional adult beef slaugh­ter by 2020, keep­ing in mind the long-term goal of de­scrib­ing the fit­ness for pur­pose of all Aus­tralian beef.”

NEW STUDY: The train that trans­ported MSA trail cat­tle to Bris­bane. PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

Cat­tle in­volved in the newMSA path­ways trial were near Quilpie. sourced from two prop­er­ties

MSA pro­gram man­ager Sarah Stra­chan is keen to see the trial roll out.

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