As you sit here reading this right now, what do you think Australian agriculture will look like in 10, 15 or 20 years time?
Will it be a landscape filled with robots, drones, sensors, software and other electronics? Or will it be much the same, with the same shearing handpiece, the same old cattle crush, and still reliant on auto-stee
r in tractors rather than full automation?
Will the consumer know where their food comes from? Will they be setting the rules for how it is produced, and what the expectations of the producer are? Will kids still want to grow up to be a farmer one day?
In the livestock industries will we still talk exclusively in breeds of cattle and breeds of sheep, or will there be a full mind shift towards traits rather than breeds? A ewe capable of cutting 5kg of 18 micron wool, marking 150% lambs with growth rates to turn them off by 5 months of age? Cows capable of conceiving and rearing twins, with the calves achieving growth rates equivalent to their single born predecessors? With both beef and lamb reaching unprecedented meat eating quality and consistency?
Will feedlotting of cattle or lambs still be an acceptable practice for consumers? Will there still be saleyards? And if so, will there still be prime stock sold in them, or only store stock? Will there still be procedures such as mulesing, tail docking, castration? What role will pain relief and stress management play within livestock operations? What about insecticides, or the use of chemicals to desiccate crops prior to harvest?
Will we see major advances in pasture species, allowing for more efficient use of available nutrients, and less reliance on synthetic fertiliser?
Oh, the uncertainty! There are two ways to look at all of those questions. The first is to see great uncertainty. Fear of the unknown, and risk to the way we currently do things. The second is to see great opportunity.
Think about where you want to be in 20 years time. What role will you have played in helping to shape the industry, and how well positioned will your business be to either cope with, or capitalise on, the changes?
If you work your way back through the list (and I am sure there are plenty of potential changes/issues that I have missed), which ones are most relevant to your operation, and what can you do to help prepare your business for them? Many, particularly the livestock related items require significant time, and even genetic change, to implement. Some require significant technological development to take place, but don’t worry it is happening. Waiting for the new level of consumer expectation, industry standard, or legislation to arrive, has the potential to leave you floundering.
We don’t want producers jumping at shadows, but we also don’t want to be looking back with hind sight and saying “yeah well we probably should have seen it coming and started earlier”.
You will often here me say that “leaders don’t need titles”. If you see the change that needs to happen in your industry, then BE the change that needs to happen. Start with implementing changes within your own operation, and lead by example.
At worst, you will be running an operation that meets your own expectations and values. At best, you will be ahead of the pack, with an operation that better meets the expectations of consumers, is more efficient, and capitalising on the technology available.
Don’t chase rainbows. Simply decide what your values are, ensure they are aligned with current and future consumer expectations, and start heading in that direction. Incremental change towards an endpoint is low risk, efficient and effective. Finding out you missed the boat and trying to jump aboard as the ship sails off is never going to end well.
At a recent presentation, I asked the room full of livestock producers to name the 3 most influential leaders of their industry, that they really want to follow. Who are the visionaries? Who are the people that will lead us all into the unknown of the future?
The blank looks on the faces said it all…
We need more leadership in Australian Agriculture, but it doesn’t always need to come from those with titles. Be the future that you want. Start today, on your farm.
Upcoming Event - Achieve More Forum - March 16 - Inverleigh, Vic. Take a look at the current and future of our livestock industry at this great event. All money raised goes to the Inverleigh & Districts Good Friday Appeal.