Technology is changing the game of beef production
“In 2008, there were a little over four billion internet connections,” states Zoetis Territory Beef Manager Greg Faxon. “In 2017, there were nine billion Internet connections. As we can guess, technology is driving things in our industry at an exponential pace.”
Faxon presented on the importance of technology in beef production at the 2020 Women’s Ag Symposium, hosted by Wyoming Women in Ag, Nov. 13 in Casper. He explains with dramatic changes in connectivity, technology in the beef industry needs to keep up with the changes.
Innovate or be disrupted
Companies like Chewy, Uber, Netlix, AirBnB, Square and Planet Fieldview are all examples Faxon gives of businesses who innovated to meet consumer interest and demands.
“Eight percent of companies believe their current business model will remain economically viable if the present rate of digitization in their industry keeps up,” he says. “This means 92 percent do not believe their companies will remain viable.”
“The dairy industry has a crazy amount of technology to measure daily inputs, intake, outputs and a lot more. Everything is monitored all the time,” Faxon continues. “In beef production, what do we monitor on a daily basis? Technologies in the cow/calf sector for every day monitoring are limited.”
Faxon notes there is reason for limited technology. The environment in which producers raise cattle and the way cattle are managed make it hard to manage specific inputs and outputs.
“Aside from head count, which we gather on an occasional basis and a weaning weight or sale weight, we don’t really monitor much else on a regular basis,” he explains.
The global agriculture analytics market is expected to spike from $585 million in 2018 to $1.2 billion in 2023, says Faxon. He asks, how much of this data will we see in the cow/calf sector and how many producers embrace digital data collection in their operation?
“We either have to learn to accept new technologies, or not adopt them,” Faxon states. “But, not adopting technologies will leave producers behind, plain and simple.”
Although agriculture, by nature, is a slower-adopting industry, there has recently been a huge increase in the amount of technologies to collect data and improve operations.
“If the dairy industry didn’t collect and capture all the data they do on a daily basis, they would not be able to make rapid change for improvement,” he explains. “Although there are things cow/calf producers don’t need to evaluate on a short-term basis, we are missing out on capturing viable and good information because we don’t want to adapt and because the industry doesn’t provide us with the opportunity to collect, store and utilize data of this kind.”
Faxon explains beef sales are better when the consumer knows something about the production process of the animal.
“The connection between the producer and the consumer is huge, and things are changing quickly and have price tags attached,” he says. “The bottom line is the consumer wants information and they are willing to pay for it.”
“We can agree or disagree on how we get information to the consumer or what information it is,” Faxon continues. “I am okay with providing information because I want paid for it too.”
Some technologies available for producers to keep records and collect data with include Performance Livestock Analytics, Performance Beef and Cattle Crush, among others, says Faxon.
“We can learn what these technologies are doing, plug them into our operations and leverage them,” he says. “Or, continue to do what we are doing. We have an opportunity as beef producers to adapt to changes, learn what technology offers, leverage the technology and use it to our benefit.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.