Living with change

Everything is so expensive! For some time now that's all we've been hearing! And with the price of grains and protein sources that keep going up or just stay high, that's no surprise! However, there are some significant issues that go along with these high prices. Such as wanting to feed less concentrates to each cow in an effort to cut down feed costs is just one example.
And this is true for society as a whole and the farming world is no exception to this phenomenon. Production techniques and productivity are constantly improving. When I was younger, I use to hear about robots milking cows. At the time, this seemed incredible, but the system has been in operation for more than 10 years now and the technology keeps getting better.

Trial and Error
Some farmers fall into the category of innovators or are more likely to try novel approaches before the latter reach the masses. Always up-to-date with the newest things and standing apart from the 'norm,' these farmers are often examined and analyzed by their neighbours. Other people are usually quick to judge and say "it's never going to work!" "They're taking too many risks!" Which sounds like that's what people are hoping for! But when these innovators persevere and succeed beyond expectations and do better than average, they are said to have been very lucky!

Obviously, such avant-garde people experience their share of failures. However, they are the reason why new techniques and new working implements are quickly improved and perfected. Regardless of the field of activity, trial and error is essential.

As a long-time amateur of genetics, I remember when embryo transfers started. This was an amazing step forward for those days! Now, we are working with divided and/or gender specific embryos among others. I also remember the information conveyed about bulls with an American Index and their use in the 1980s. We can't help but admit that we now find them in a majority of genealogies and that modern genetics is by far superior to what we had at that time. Nowadays, the same fears exist about genomics. When I was visiting Wisconsin with a group of Canadian dairy producers we had some very interesting discussions with the owner of a 900-head farm who, for the past four years, has been using "young genome bovines" for 95% of his herd's reproduction needs. This approach, which accelerates genetic evolution, is completely different from our traditional 'breeding' philosophy.

It's sometimes necessary to go to extremes to test a model and mould new ideologies, new methods. However, it's a critical step for fine-tuning them and making them more accessible to other producers. Not everyone has the capacity to be forward-thinking… But one thing is true; change is part of our daily lives and being nostalgic won't change anything - the era of the black and white TV and the "step-saver milking machine" is over! Agriculture and dairy production need to follow the trend to be more appealing to the next generation and to people as a whole, while staying cost-effective and high performing. Three cheers for change!

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