The U.S. pork industry has seen steady production improvements every year for the last 50 years – an unprecedented accomplishment. Lowell Catlett, a well-known futurist and retired regents professor and dean emeritus from New Mexico State University, says these gains have been made possible with intensive operations that conserve land and resources, not pasture operations.
“To be sure, open pasture systems have reaped some gains during the last several years using improved genetics and supplemental nutrition,” Catlett says, “But it simply cannot provide for the doubling of meat consumption during the next 25 years.
“Intensive animal production provides the necessary set up for the continued application of technologies both in production and in handling of the waste,” he adds.
As operations become larger and more intensive, Catlett says animal welfare “will be foremost in the scientific arena as the balance between production efficiency and animal mental health will dominate new designs for concentrated operations.”
Catlett says technology and robotics will change agriculture – and so much more. He points out that advanced robotic computers can tell the difference between ripe and unripe peaches, and drones can pick only the cotton bolls that are open and ready.
“Computer capacity, for all intents and purposes, is infinite,” he says. “We’re literally blowing the doors off of robotics. Get ready for a data revolution – the likes of which we’ve never seen before.”
Editor’s Note: In part 3 of this overview of Lowell Catlett’s presentation to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, we’ll share his outlook on technology in agriculture, and how it will drastically change the way farmers do business.