The Future of Livestock Farming

Animal farming for food raises a number of complex issues. Because of their adaptability, livestock is critical to the survival of millions of people living in remote areas. Meat and dairy products are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and when livestock are properly managed, they contribute to important ecosystem functions such as soil fertility. However, there are concerns about the industry’s

Meat is a relatively inefficient source of calories. Livestock consumes roughly 40% of global arable land while providing 20% of human calorific intake: chicken consumes 12 calories for every 100 calories of grain, while beef consumes 3 calories for every 100 calories of grain. Despite the fact that livestock consumes roughly one-third of all cereal production, 86% of their plant diet consists of grass, leaves, and other foods that humans cannot eat. It is argued that livestock contributes to food security by making the inedible edible.

Meat and dairy consumption in low and middle-income countries has tripled in the last thirty years, owing largely to rising prosperity and urbanization. This increase comes on top of already massive demand in developed countries: the average American consumes 222 pounds of meat per year. With global demand expected to rise by 80% by 2030, we may face serious challenges in feeding a growing population on the planet’s limited agricultural land.

The world’s 1.4 billion cattle, plus billions of pigs and chickens, already occupy two billion hectares of grasslands, 700 million of which could arguably be used more effectively to grow crops for human consumption. Unless we all become vegetarians, one potential solution is to increase the productivity of farm animals. When it comes to production, average farm animals may not be meeting their genetic potential; however, techniques and technologies are being developed and deployed to close that gap and keep meat on the menu.

Farmers have always sought efficiency. They have selectively bred animals for millennia to increase their inherent resilience and productivity. Better nutrition, which improves an animal’s conversion of feed into protein, is supporting this. The addition of natural enzymes and organic acids improves feed digestibility, allowing animals to obtain more nutrition from a wider variety of poorer plants. It also promotes a healthier gut, which makes them less susceptible to disease. A better understanding of the precise nutritional needs of animals is resulting in feeds that optimize their energy, protein, and vitamins while improving overall well-being—better yields and healthier herds.

Most people’s vision of future farming is centered on technology, and precision farming’s drones, sensors, and wearables all contribute to increased efficiency. Drones are increasingly being used to monitor the health and productivity of animals as well as the land on which they graze. A drone equipped with infrared sensors and multi-spectrum, high-definition cameras can send real-time images of herds and flocks over vast swaths of difficult terrain. This enables farmers to locate lost animals quickly and easily, identify newborns, and diagnose illness in herds and individual animals. Drones can also show the condition of pasture, which can help with decisions about moving animals for food, water, or safety. It may even be possible to train livestock to follow a drone in the manner of a high-tech, long-distance sheepdog.