Producer’s traceable premium beef feeds community and consumer interest

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Digitizing record management gives a sizeable advantage

In Saanichton, British Columbia, a 20-minute drive outside of Victoria, the Michell family runs a 7th-generation farm raising and growing everything from cattle to berries. The farm has been a fixture on the island since 1862 and includes a grocery store where it sells free-range beef from its own herd of close to 170 animals.

“We have an open farm gate policy,” said Greg Michell, owner and founder of Michell’s Beef, a two-person operation. “People come in here and I think they’re delighted to find that we do everything ourselves, that the food our animals eat we grow as well. It seems to resonate with customers that they can say, ‘I really am buying something that is on my doorstep.’”

To give them the full story behind the product, Michell’s Farm labels each package of beef with a QR code. Generated by TELUS Animal Record Management, this QR code makes it possible to track beef from conception to the consumer’s shopping cart and offer information on each animal’s journey.

“We like to share a little bit about what we’re doing, what we’re producing and how we’re doing it,” Michell says.

Tracking for future success

This is only one part of Michell’s push to improve record keeping, herd management and traceability through technology. The operation revolutionized its practices by adopting the one-stop solution two years ago to plan and monitor every one of its activities as well as organize, analyze and share individual animal data collected through RFID tags and other means.

“It’s made keeping track of data borderline effortless, and evolving and growing the herd more viable,” Michell says. “We’ll vaccinate or treat 50 heads of cattle and it takes about a minute to do all of the paperwork and update all of the records.”

The solution saves them time, but it also helps them build a reliable archive that can inform future decisions, to enhance animal health and ensure business success. Instead of relying on handwritten notes, they now use their phone or tablet and have records synched and centralized.

“You can be outside in all elements. I can’t tell you how many times the old notepad got rained on, the two pages I’d just written turned into a blur and I thought, ‘Better luck next time’”.

Andy Duke, Michell’s herd manager, describes the tangible improvements in day-to-day operations. “We’re in and out of the program over a dozen times each day,” Duke explains. “It’s given us the ability now to start honing in on having a herd of high-performing animals, to identify the ones that we might want to pull out of the program and the ones that will  replace them.”

Digitizing calving records has revealed trends over time they wouldn’t have captured before, according to Duke.

Now, they can also precisely calculate feed needs, get calendar reminders to vaccinate or harvest, keep records for regulatory compliance and grade animals to identify best performing blood lines. Plus, within the platform they are able to access veterinary protocols from the herd’s own veterinarian and share data with partners such as breeding associations, to maintain and advance herd health.

Setting itself apart

Michell’s Beef is unique – everything from raising forage to selling its meat directly to customers takes place on the farm. Documenting and sharing information about its practices gives it an added edge.

While the operation faces the same production challenges as every other beef producer, it is able to demonstrate to customers that it’s meeting those challenges responsibly, working hard to provide a premium product.

Greg Michell says he and Andy Duke even talk about the functionalities of TELUS Animal Record Management with those who inquire about their practices. “It shows them we’re conscientious, we have a tried and true program that is used across North America and beyond, by operations of all sizes.” He adds that their customers are willing to pay more for the reassurance that traceability provides – a definite advantage in continuing to grow the farm’s exceptional 160-year legacy.

Learn how TELUS Animal Record Management can streamline and track herd health and performance.

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