New MSA trial on track
Study may lead to $50M boon for northern beef cattle producers
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.