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The Impact of Technology in the Beef Industry

Developments in technology provide every industry with improved methods, management processes and accuracy. The beef industry is no different. Advanced software options for cattle farmers help save time, improve record keeping and allow for more coordinated efforts across all stages of production. More specifically, technological advances in the beef industry have contributed to the integration of beef programs like nutrition and health management; better information analysis techniques, including genetic processing; and improved cattle management practices, like more accurate tracing.

New technologies allow young farmers to contribute fresh ideas and perspectives helping create better solutions and practices, which directly affect the future of the beef industry. Cattle management, genetics and production strategies are popular areas in which improved technology has impacted day-to-day responsibilities as well as executive-level decision making. As a new generation of cattle producers takes the lead, technology use will continue to impact the industry on all levels.

Jaclyn Wilson-Demel, a fifth generation rancher, uses computers, mobile apps and handheld devices for real-time input to help with day-to-day operations. “Technology is especially important for us because we run our ranch like a purebred operation in terms of record keeping,” she said. “As calves are being born, we use handheld devices to record real time data as we work in the pasture for an accurate history of each animal. These files will be available to us and future generations for the decades to come. ”

In addition to computers and mobile devices, some cattle farmers utilize tracing technologies for more accurate data recording. Software developers are even creating online systems in which farmers can trace cattle from birth to eventual death along with other details such as diet, grazing schedules, location transfer, breeding history and keeper profiles. Collecting as many details during the life of the cattle not only helps with disease control and traceability, but also provides source verification, which is important to beef consumers as well as cattle breeders.

With more detailed records, cattle farmers are able to practice improved cattle genomic testing processes. Desirable traits can be identified in carriers of recessive and dominant genes for more informed breeding decisions, resulting in better cattle quality and improved profitability. This helps in accurately measuring Expected Progency Differences (EPDs) for more economically attractive traits like disease resistance, animal growth and feed utilization.

Ben Neale, a YPC leader and first generation cattle farmer with a veterinary and business background, uses tracing technology to improve cattle genetics. “I tag my cattle to help record as many details about health, diet, location and performance for improved breeding practices. These are essential in building successful breeding techniques, which I’ve linked to a mix of trial and error, education, regulation, experience and intuition, because I want to produce the healthiest and most profitable cattle possible.”

Some beef operation managers may find it difficult to choose which tech strategies are best suited for their unique situation. This gives young cattle producers an opportunity to step up and apply new technology in innovative ways providing a fresh outlook on old techniques. The key is to spend time analyzing current strategies for opportunities to integrate the right technology in the most appropriate areas.  Implemented strategically, technology can be used to improve beef operations across the board for a more integrated approach that saves time, improves processes and leads to higher profitability.

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