FOR the past couple decades progress in on-farm technology has largely been the domain of the cropping industry.
Tools such as harvest monitoring, soil mapping and auto steer, among others, have allowed producers to finetune their operations.
This has also had the added advantage of attracting young farmers back to the sector due to the interest it generates and the ability to squeeze out that extra bit of efficiency.
But the tables are turning.
Technology for livestock is emerging at an increasingly fast rate.
It has began with labour-saving equipment driven purely by need as people left the sector and those that remained got older.
However, the gradual improvement in genomics and the way this can be used with existing performance measurement is where things should really take off.
Genomics is more than just performance selection. It has the potential to bring about a whole new way of how we manage our livestock.
Parent verification (also see p34), for example, while still an expensive tool, could open the door for larger management mobs in stud operations, including multiple sire joinings, and therefore provide more useful performance data on individuals due to larger contemporary groups.
With the increased pedigree accuracy from parent verification, plus the ability to target specific traits, this can really boost genetic gains.
In fact, seedstock producers of the future will be able to select for strains within a breed which will have a genetic combination best suited to particular environments, while still achieving high performance.
The biggest change, however, could be the opportunity for commercial flocks or herds – especially those which already have some performance data – to become seedstock producers.
When combined with electronic identification, big herds have a better chance of producing and identifying high performing animals.
With these technologies the genes responsible could be identified and integrated through the herd at a faster rate than existing breeding techniques.
This is perhaps where the biggest changes in livestock breeding will ultimately eventuate.
However, it is this increasing ability to look “inside” the animal, and better understand its make-up that will bring the gains necessary for profitability as well generate the interest factor to hook the next generation.