At the Grill with William Torres: Look underneath the paint job on your heifers

This month’s At The Grill feature by William Torres (former Research Manager at Cattleland Feedyards and popular presenter at Gentec conferences) tells us why the Arm-Chair Rancher app will help producers make better decisions, and how they can contribute to the apps development

Ever wonder what else you can do to be a smarter producer? How can you make easier decisions from the comfort of your couch?

Well, that’s what the scientists at UAlberta are working on. Drum roll, please……Welcome to the “Arm-Chair Rancher” app: an analytic mobile app that helps beef producers better manage various aspects of their herds. The smart device app will help you make the most informed business decisions you can by leveraging the masses of data you already collect daily on features like herd genetics, feedlots and economics.

In my humble opinion, this is about to be an app that brings together all of the data we collect and don’t know what to do with. Think about it like an ancestry test–but for your cattle. Say you buy a black heifer and didn’t have all the information you would like to have but, even if you did, you wouldn’t know what to do with it. Now with a simple DNA sample, you can unlock the genetic makeup of your heifer, and obtain information that’s relevant like:

Actual breed composition

Profit index

Residual Feed Intake

Birth Weight

Body fat/intramuscular fat

The app is really being designed to assist ranchers. And it makes sense that Alberta’s data-rich cattle industry lends itself naturally to the development of an app. Part of the development is to build one that can use and identify live trends in everything from the weather, commodities, and beef prices. Taking the guesswork out of your equation can really save you some serious dollars.

“For artificial intelligence to work, a lot of data is needed, and while many areas in agriculture are not very digitized, there’s an enormous number and types of measurements for cattle, so there’s this huge potential for getting the data needed to make machine learning work.” Dr. Wishart (one of the developers) noted.

The app will help ranchers create scenarios to predict risk and potentially cut losses in their operations. It’s a function that would have been useful for the drought they experienced this summer, Wishart suggested.

So where can you get it? Well, the app is still being developed but you can definitely contribute to the data portion in the meantime. As everyone contributes their information, the data deepens. The more data contributed, the more valuable the overall app becomes. You’ll have the benefit of both visualizing your information and melding it with general information to come up with a solution that works for your scenario. The prototype app should launch in Fall 2022, and you could be part of it. All you have to do is contact Gentec.

The future is here. Imagine typing in your postal code, and based on historical weather data, the app can help predict future weather trends. For example, weather patterns from the past 40 years are accessible, which makes it possible to estimate what the weather could be like in your region, one month to several years from now. Take that, Star Trek!

The research is supported through Alberta Innovates under the agency’s Smart Agriculture and Food Digitization and Automation Challenge Program, and by Beefbooster.

For more information, contact Jennifer Stewart-Smith at Beefbooster.







Posted in Industry.