Experts discuss the dairy industry in 50 years: Genomics, regulations and more

In 50 years it will be 2069, and we have no idea what the world will look like. We certainly have hopes for our planet — that our industries will be booming and efficient, particularly our agricultural economy.

University of Minnesota Extension educator James Salfer predicts that changes in the dairy industry over the next 50 years will be just as drastic as those of the previous 50. In a recent article, he summarized 10 experts’ predictions, some of which apply to other livestock industries as well. Though we’ll take a look at a few of the points below, the key impact points included:

  • Increased use of genomics and genetics technology
  • Population explosion
  • Climate change
  • Related to the above, regulations moving towards environmental sustainability
  • Automation and precision management
  • Consumer demand and the impact of millennial preferences
  • Lateral integration of facilities
  • Unforeseen circumstances and “black swan” events
  • Influence of non-governmental organizations on the industry

The genomic journey

Salfer highlights what experts are saying about the role of genetics in shaping the herds of the future, and no doubt, the similar-but-different field of genomics will continue to play an enormous role as well.

Gene-editing will allow livestock to be designed to be better suited for different environments, more disease-resistant and able to produce more with fewer resources. Genomics is the key to allowing breeders to keep these advantageous traits in the herd. With genomic testing, producers receive a summary of genetic traits of their animals, including data on their fertility, their likelihood of producing quality protein, their adaptability and disease resistance.

Together, producers and scientists will work together to use these technologies to improve the herds of the future. With better herds, it becomes easier to feed a growing global population.

A changing world

The pressure will be on for sustainability, as more and more humans fit onto our little blue planet and a shifting climate changes the environments in which producers work. Salfer notes that in North America, for example, dairy production could move from increasingly hot and dry areas in the West to wetter zones. He says that according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, already Minnesota’s current growing season is about 15 days longer than it was in 1900.

And globally, Asian and African countries will account of 93% of population growth — how will that impact international food trade? With so many changes, regulations will likely lead to drastic changes in agriculture, such as California’s pledge to reduce methane emissions by 40% by 2030.

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