Is Technology the Ticket to Improve Livestock Production?

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One lesson COVID-19 has taught our country is agriculture is essential, says Dan Thomson, DVM, chair of the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University. Thomson will be joining Aidan Connolly, president of AgriTech Capital, North Carolina, and CEO of Cainthus, for “What Will Livestock Technology Look Like in the Face of COVID-19?” during Farm Journal Field Days on Aug. 25 at noon.

“We can't replace people getting up and doing the chores. We can't replace truck drivers. We can't replace people working in the packinghouses or the kid down at the grocery store stocking the shelves. Those people are so essential,” Thomson told AgriTalk host Chip Flory on Aug. 13. “What we found is there's a lot of things we talk about in this country because we're affluent. And there's a lot of things in these discussions that kind of went away during COVID because they just weren't essential.”

Access to a safe, wholesome, nutritious and affordable food animal supply chain is critical. Thomson is looking forward to discussing this topic and more as it relates to the use of technology in livestock production. 

For example, Thomson said a mom can serve her child a hot dog, knowing that they will be getting the protein, energy, vitamins and minerals needed for great mental and physical growth. 

“We aren't all rich and famous people that can hire a chef or hire a dietician or someone to go buy our groceries to make sure that we have a balanced diet,” Thomson said. “So, we’re about feeding everybody.”

Feeding everybody affordably is so important, Flory agreed. When the packing plants shuttered due to complications from COVID-19, the food supply chain learned a lot more about one of its areas of vulnerability. Technology is part of the solution.

Thomson expects the future will be filled with more robotics in packing plants. In addition to smaller, more regional plants, he says the industry will utilize more robots to take off some of the labor pressure. 

“You know, animal ID and traceability in this world of foreign animal diseases and human diseases, I think this is going to really open up that conversation. If we want to export, we're going to have to get a traceability system in place,” Thomson said.

The challenge: Who will pay for it?

“To me, that's not it's not something farmers and ranchers should have to pay for. It should be all Americans,” he said.

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