As I attend dairy events and communicate with other breeders, I hear varied reactions to the ever increasing rate of change in the dairy cattle improvement industry. Some want things to stay the way they are or go back to the way they were. Others want a slower rate of change. While others say – “Bring it on!” Most often the last group are the new entrants and those that are expanding and buying the new technology. As a result of all these interest groups having different viewpoints, organization serving breeders receive mixed messages on how they are to operate and what they need to do to lead us into the future. But one thing is for certain, the future will not be the past or the present. Here are a few topics that we all need to mull over.
Criticism and Fault Finding Don’t Work
When was the last time you pointed a finger at others and said ‘They are wrong!’? Well maybe they are but then again maybe they are not. It seems that folks in the dairy industry waste energy on pointing out deficiencies instead of accepting others and moving forward to make the overall better. Every parent knows that when they complement and build up their children, the end result can be over the moon. There is a people management theory that talks about bosses finding employees doing things right and rewarding them for that instead of focusing on the things done wrong. Future and fault both start with an ‘f’, but they do not both belong in the same sentence.
Needed – Futuristic Organization Leaders
When you vote for your rep to an organization do you vote for the one that has the time to serve or the one that will put in place the policies and direction so that staff can develop the programs and services needed for five and ten years down the road. Often we hear “He or she would make an excellent director, but they are too busy developing their own business to take the time to serve on a board of directors.” The truth is that those ideas are exactly what progressive boards need. There are ways to get their creative input into policy and direction and it does not mean that they need to attend unnecessary and unproductive meetings. Big companies operate very well under policy and direction boards – so too can the dairy improvement industry. Our futures may depend entirely on the type of leaders breeders elect and how those leaders are encouraged to operate. (Read more: Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)
Frequently these days we hear about mergers, take-overs, consolidations and elimination. Often our initial reaction is negative to any or all of these. Nevertheless the industry moves on afterwards. Our industry needs to move continually on too new and higher heights. Protection, of jobs, programs, services or organizations, is a time, energy and resources waster.
Traditionally we have had individual organizations providing animal identification, animal tracking, milk recording, type classification, data storage, data analysis, research and technology transfer. If we were starting from where we are at today to create new, would we still need all these centers? Avoiding the costs of duplication and providing the best information to breeders in 2020 are opportunities that must be taken.
Most often we think nationally. But in this ever increasingly global world we need to consider if there are opportunities for more success if we were to have multicounty or worldwide organizations. International organizations for providing services such as genetic evaluations, data storage, research and technology transfer need to be considered. (Read more: The Future of the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry – United we Stand, Divided we Fall!)
Automation Has Just Begun
Something new in robotic or drone technology comes on the scene for dairy farmers almost every month. Initially, it was machines replacing labour but it has quickly expanded to be more data captured that is significantly improving cow, herd and business management. The day is coming where every input is tested and measured and every output is measured, tested, monitored and documented for consumer awareness.
Our traditional concept of what’s official and what is not will not be necessary. Milk weights will be captured at every milking and on a routine schedule other tests, including components, will be performed.
But that is not all – animals will be continually monitored and have the results retained from birth to death. As herd size expands and the cost of technology decreases, breeders will fine tune their genetics, their nutrition programs, their management and how they market their products. If we call the current time the “information age” then I am sure, we’ll need to call it the super information age in ten years’ time. (Read more: Robotic Milking: More than just automation it’s a new style of herd management)
One Cow Will Not Suit All
In the past, we have defined the ideal cow and strongly encouraged every breeder to breed for that ideal. Well, that’s not what will happen in the future. Yes, every breeder will want and breed for the profitable cow but the definition of profitable will be very much breeder specific. With more on-farm software and more on-farm testing, programs like milk recording or type classification could well be replaced. It could very well be that automatically captured photos will be all that is needed as far as conformation assessment is concerned. Want to know how a cow moves? Then watch her move in real time. Want to know the mobility of a sire’s daughters, analyse the videos. When genomic indexes reach 80+% accuracy, then the need for third party verification of performance will be much less important than it has been in the past. Furthermore with most breeders deriving the vast majority of their revenue from the sale of milk and with cow input costs captured individually, net returns will determine which cows stay or go, not their performance. (Read more: The Secret to Breeding the Dairy Cow of the Future… )
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Our industry’s future success depends on the attitude and approach taken by breeders. Collaboration amongst breeders and support for new information and concepts is necessary. The leaders, we elect, need to be business oriented visionaries. Communication from breeders to their leaders and organizations and back to the breeders must be continuous. Information and data will determine profit or success. Where once breeding was considered primarily an art form, in the future cattle breeding will depend upon science and business. One thing is for sure, pulling together is not an option, it is a must have.