2016 Application Essay: Technology Has Changed Farming
What specific impacts do you think consumer preferences will have on food animal production practices over the next ten years?
Technology is an ever changing way of life for all Americans. This is especially true in the agricultural world. Individuals must continually be aware of new ideas and the changing way of farming. A farmer that is not changing with technology is a farmer that will soon cease to have a farm.
No longer does a farmer just get in his tractor and go to the fields. GPS tracking is making its presence known and will only continue to improve our efficiency in crop production. Farmers will continue to see the use of GPS in all areas of farming. Everywhere from planting fields to manure application and someday completely self running tractors.
After soil analysis the operator can then upload the data into the tractor and the GPS will be able to control the amount of seeds placed in each soil type for optimal performance. As we have learned the more data you collect, the more valuable the information becomes. Once a farmer starts harvesting a field of grain, immediate data can show the bushels being combined and the current percent moisture, how much grain is being produced on the current field.
As an industry agriculture has seen countless advances in the row crop industry, and just as swiftly as innovation are occurring in the fields, efficiencies are becoming ever more prominent in the livestock sector. Ask any person removed from agriculture to picture a farm, and undoubtedly they will tell of a farm your grandfather had. They will talk about green hills and pigs running outside, but modern agriculture has become much better than that today.
While rural America is still dotted with farms across the countryside, the practices implemented today have a much bigger global impact than years gone by. Instead of outside feedlots for cattle we now see many producers bringing the cattle under cover to protect them from the elements. By protecting them from the elements producers are able to control the environment and prevent feed wastage due to precipitation. Due to our ability to prevent waste and ability to shelter them they are able to convert more energy to pounds in a shorter time frame, therefore allowing producers to market a heavier animal in a shorter time frame. Also with the modern advances in technology allows us to electronically identify each of our calves. This means when they come to eat the scale can weigh how much feed they eat and when it was consumed. This is a great efficiency tool as the producer can then see which cattle are doing well on the current ration and which cattle may need moved to a different ration. Overall the cattle industry is just hitting the tip of the iceberg when we talk about feeding cattle. I see many more technological advances on the horizon for the cattle industry.
The same technology could be applied to swine industry. As I stated earlier many people still envision pigs being farrowed in A-frame huts in a pasture. The actual state of the swine industry could not be further from the truth. Today the vast majority of all pigs are kept indoors in a large barn. While many question why we keep them indoors the answer is quite simple, its better for the animals. Image the brutal humid summers in Iowa on a pregnant female, remember pigs can’t sweat. In an outside setting that sow would have a long day in the hot sun, but with our technological advances we are able to provide her a 65 degree day with a cool breeze with unlimited access to clean, fresh water. Producers are also able to make sure that each pig always has the correct amount of feed available at all times. In the old system, pigs were forced to wait to be fed, now a computer makes sure feed is always readily available.
In the past ten years the swine industry has seen the most change in from technology. The numbers tell the story, average litter size has increased 25%, carbon footprint down 30%, and almost 10% quicker to harvest. With ever improving technology I see the swine industry continuing to make huge strides forward.
However, even when presented with all of the new technological advances there are still some consumers that wish to see production the way that it used to be. The trendy word “Organic” gets thrown out a lot, whether or not it is truly organic or not people picture the pigs happy in a field or the calves on a grassy hillside, thus driving demand for these products.
Overall, it is clear that technology has changed farming drastically over the last decade. However, there will be a market for organic or GMO free choices there is no way to feed the growing population with such a small and fruitless crop. That is why I see agriculture continuing to utilize technology for the better in all of its production aspects.
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