BEEF Editors' Blog

Will You Be Ranching Like The Jetsons In 10 Years?

The speed of change, both in the world around us and on the ranch, is accelerating.

“What will the beef industry look like in 10 years?” A simple question, that. But, in the same breath, one of profound depth and profound significance.

That’s the question Jim Carroll asked cattle feeders attending the recent Cattle Feeders Business Summit, sponsored by Merck Animal Health. The Toronto-based futurist then gave them a glimpse into a future that will, in some ways, be completely different from our current experience.

Remember George Jetson? The popular cartoon from the ‘60s was, in many ways, prophetic, Carroll told cattle feeders. So was Star Trek. In “The Jetsons,” George uses a flat-screen device to FacedTime with his family and his boss. In “Star Trek,” medical conditions were instantly analyzed with a hand-held tricorder.

Welcome to your future. FaceTime is already a reality. So is a device much like Bones’ medical tricorder. And the technology behind both will forever change how you manage your cattle, Carroll says.

Consider these facts:

  • An Australian study determined, given the rate of technological change we’re presently enduring, that the majority of kids entering grade school now will work at jobs that do not yet exist.
  • Another study determined that half of what college students learn in the first year of school will either be obsolete or revised by the time they graduate.
  • 60% of Apple’s revenue comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago.

One of those newly emerging careers that will have profound influence on how you manage cattle, Carroll says, are location intelligence professionals. That’s an emerging technology that is exploding in its capability.

 “We’ve got a GPS in our pocket with our smartphone,” he says. But that’s just the beginning.

“Imagine a future in which we’ve got remote herd management monitoring technology in which we have instant insight into the health of our herd, the health of particular animals, that goes way beyond simple GPS tracking,” he says.

While you’re trying to bend your mind around the implications of that thought, consider this: “In 2017, if not sooner, we could be in a situation where minimally invasive surgery for large animals is common,” he predicts. “Remote monitoring of the effectiveness of animal pharmaceutical treatment (will be common) because the pharmaceuticals we give our animals are connected to the internet.”

Science fiction? Not at all. “This is real stuff. Virtual understanding of every single aspect of your herd is coming sooner than you think,” Carroll told cattle feeders.

How will this change the cattle business? Carroll says we will quickly transition from a management approach where we deal with issues in the herd after they are diagnosed to an industry where we understand, with a high degree of accuracy, what conditions they will be susceptible to.

Not all of us, particularly those who can remember watching “The Jetsons” and “Star Trek” when they weren’t reruns, are comfortable with technology, and particularly aren’t comfortable with how quickly it is changing our world. My wife just bought a new car, and thank Goodness it still has a steering wheel, because just about everything else on the dashboard is beyond my ability to operate.

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We’re going to have to get over that. Carroll says one of his ag clients framed it perfectly. They have customers they call the apathetic minority—they tend to seek the same advice from the same places; they have a low tolerance for risk; they’re skeptical about the future.

Then they have clients who are future positive. These are farmers and ranchers who are optimistic; they’re business-minded; they’re innovation-oriented; they’re collaborative for advice; they seek input from other generations; they thrive on ideas that come from technology; they’re focused on profit and growth; they’re willing to approach everything in new ways.

That, Carroll says, is your future and that’s who you need to be.

So what do you think your ranch or feedyard will look like in 10 years? Will you still saddle a horse, heat up the branding irons, rope calves, turn the bulls out and do the many other things that have traditionally have defined both you and your livelihood? Or will you, as Carroll predicts, manage your ranch or feedyard completely differently?

Honey, let’s go get some ice cream. We’ll take the new car. Now, show me again how you start this darn thing.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Frank Schlichting (not verified)
on Aug 21, 2014

What some people still ride horses, rope calves and heat branding irons in a fire? Some folks will never change,

on Aug 21, 2014

Frank--

You are exactly right. But in my opinion that's not entirely a bad thing. There are some aspects of managing and operating a ranch (or any other type of catle operation) where traditional approaches can still be useful. The challenge is to hold on to those things that are still valid while seeking out and incorporating the new ideas and new things that will come our way.

Burt Rutherford

Jay O'Brien (not verified)
on Aug 21, 2014

Thanks for the view. As an older man who did not watch the Jetsons, I am not very optimistic. Our industry can't even embrace mandatory ID which could allow us to tie title to a number and serious curtail cattle theft and fraud. Eastern and others couldn't have stolen their millions from cattlemen; had we embraced this technology. It would also allow us to transfer information about the cattle we raise.

Will we do business differently in 10 years, sure; but not as differently as we need.

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Everyday musings from BEEF Editors on the latest beef industry news and events.

Contributors

Joe Roybal

Joe is a native of South Dakota and a graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in journalism. He worked as a daily newspaper reporter and photographer before doing a six-year stint...

Burt Rutherford

Burt has nearly 30 years’ experience communicating about beef industry issues. A Colorado native and graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in agricultural journalism, he now...

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