A staged rollout of an e-manifest being developed by Alberta’s Livestock Identification Services (LIS) for the province’s cattle producers and horse owners is now underway with plans to add sheep in due time.
An electronic version of the paper manifest has been available since June for transport only. It can be used by producers when they or their representatives transport cattle as long as the load doesn’t require inspection by an LIS brand inspector and as long as a third party isn’t involved, such as buyers, auction markets, assembly yards, and community pastures.
This limits use of the e-manifest at this stage of its development to moving cattle from location to location owned or leased by the producer, basically between home and pasture and pasture to pasture within the province, explains LIS general manager Shawn McLean.
A few producers were using the e-manifest this summer and uptake was expected to increase as cattle moved home from pastures and word got out through promotion at industry events.
“We are encouraging producers to sign up and give it a try because we want to make sure it is performing as expected before we add the next steps so that when we are done we will have it right the first time around. It has to work seamlessly,” McLean says.
The initial design allows users to share certain information on manifests with others. All of the data fields for transport, receivers and LIS inspectors are in place and work is underway to complete the interface with the receiver of the cattle. Once the transport section is approved, the receiver section will be opened up for a test run in the real world. The inspector portion will be the last one to be activated. It is a huge project that he admits will take time to complete fully.
The information required on an e-manifest mirrors that on the paper manifest. For now, e-manifest users will only be able to see and complete the data fields required for transport. The other sections will become visible as each comes into use.
The original vision five years ago was for the e-manifest to usher in a paperless system where authorized parties would log into a secure website to complete their portions of the manifest at each step as required, with all the information automatically stored in the central database.
As it stands, LIS distributes approximately 250,000 paper manifests each year for cattle and horses. Manifests from every inspection are scanned and the details typed into the database creating a permanent electronic record as cattle and horses are received, or leaving from an inspection point in Alberta, mainly auction markets, feedlots, packing plants, and locations where animals are being exported to other provinces and countries.
McLean says the paperless concept won’t be entirely doable without a change in provincial regulations requiring cattle to be transported with a paper manifest. Until then, and as voluntary use of the e-manifest is phased in, users will be able to complete their parts online and the information will be stored in the database, but a copy will have to be printed to send with the cattle.
Protocols will be built into the program that will allow users to make changes after the manifest is printed and submitted such as when the number or class of cattle listed on an e-manifest have to be changed once the cattle are loaded.
Calgary-based Ci2 Group is developing this program and has done several projects over the years with LIS so it is well tuned to the needs of the cattle industry.
Other electronic reporting programs already in the industry are being reviewed in the development of the LIS manifest. PigTrace Mobile, for example, allows pig producers to log into their accounts from a mobile phone to generate a shipping document that can be printed or sent ahead of a load by email or text to any business partner that covers shipping, settlement or inventory requirements.
Canadian and American border authorities also require advanced electronic reporting of cargo and conveyance information for imported commercial goods. Each has its own system for filing the information, separate and apart from the e-manifest LIS is developing, which is currently only for transporting cattle within Alberta.
McLean says an e-manifest for cattle isn’t one of those things that just seemed like a good idea five years ago. It’s a product producers have been asking for ever since it was first suggested. As Alberta’s private industry-led administrator of brand registrations and livestock inspection services, LIS is committed to making it happen, while retaining paper manifests for those who prefer the traditional option.
Alberta beef and dairy producers and horse owners are invited to give the transport section a try at emanifests.com. For more information, contact LIS at 1-866-509-2088.