Meat & Livestock News

Microwave Technology: A New Frontier in Analysing Fat Depth in Cattle

caucasian scientist in blue lab uniform stand near big steel machine with control panel, make notes about machine

Murdoch University’s Advanced Livestock Measurement Technologies program (ALMTech) is pioneering the use of microwave technology to enhance the precision of livestock measurements.

This innovative approach aims to improve genetic selection, provide detailed carcass feedback, and ensure beef and lamb carcasses meet market specifications.

Dr. Graham Gardner, ALMTech’s chief investigator, highlighted the advantages of this technology over traditional methods. He noted that using the microwave device to measure fat and tissue depth is significantly more accurate than the conventional human-provided score, which relies on palpation of the live animal or carcass.

This advancement is expected to offer producers more reliable feedback from processors.

The microwave system, currently undergoing accreditation, is being positioned as a cost-effective alternative to the Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry system (DEXA).

While DEXA provides comprehensive bone, muscle, and fat measurements, the microwave system focuses on measuring fat depth at specific points to predict carcass composition and lean meat yield.

This targeted approach is particularly beneficial for lot feeders.

Dr. Gardner emphasised the system’s potential, stating that it could be a game-changer for producers. The feedback from this device will guide producers in refining their finishing processes to better align with carcass slaughter grids.

Despite its promise, the technology has faced challenges. Jayaseelan Marimuthu, the project’s lead engineer, shared that during the accreditation process for predicting GR tissue depth in lamb, inconsistencies were discovered between devices.

This led to a recalibration of the method, ensuring uniformity across devices.

Michael Hughes, an Angus feedlot operator in NSW, has been trialling the system on his feeder cows. He believes that the device’s ability to quickly and accurately measure fat depth can enhance feed efficiency and carcass performance.

Hughes envisions that once the device gains commercial accreditation, processors will benefit from reduced waste during processing, leading to more premium products.

In conclusion, the microwave technology developed by ALMTech holds significant potential for the livestock industry. Its ability to provide accurate, instantaneous readings of fat depth can revolutionise the way producers and processors approach livestock management and processing.