You may not think that technology and ranching go hand in hand, but things have changed drastically in the world of cowhands over the past few decades and that includes new technology in animal production. While you’ll still find wide open spaces and plenty of dust to satisfy your inner cattle rustler, the truth is that agricultural technology is giving ranchers the edge that they may have been lacking. Here are just a few of the ways that technology is disrupting modern-day ranching.
DNA Marker Technology
One common struggle that ranchers have is keeping the right females in the herd, particularly when they’re forced to reduce numbers. Ty Watkins, a commercial cattle rancher in West Texas, was forced to make these tough decisions after a severe drought year. Once that drought had passed, he needed to rebuild his herd.
In the past, culling a herd was accomplished based primarily on gut instinct. Watkins has developed a high-tech solution that involves using a DNA marker test to identify the healthiest and most productive animals in the herd. Not only will this help with more efficient culling in the future, but the ranch can also use the data to produce calves for targeted markets.
Cattle Management Solutions
Managing a herd of just about any size is an ongoing challenge. Technology is now being used for such things as record-keeping and even real-time tracking of cattle. One such program is called CattleMax, created by the company Cattlesoft, Inc. The program tracks inventory, manages health records, maintains breeding records, records sales and purchases, and tracks performance data. Cattle tracking is accomplished through the use of cattle ID tags (RFID cattle tags) with electronic reader identification tools.
Cattlesoft was started by Terrell and Penny Miller while they were still students at Texas A&M University nearly two decades ago. Up until CattleMax came along, ranchers still largely used pen and paper to track their operations. CattleMax now has an online version that can be accessed via smartphones and tablets to record events as they happen.
Ranchers not only have to manage their livestock but their land as well. Today, GIS technology is one of the primary tools being used for advanced rangeland management. This diverse tool uses a combination of geographic positioning systems (GPS) and a computer mapping system to help ranchers design and sculpt their land management plan.
An initial mapping of a piece of land can be accomplished with the use of a drone. Once the land is mapped, the technology can guide the movement of a herd as well as heavy machinery around the property.
An accurate map using one of these systems can help a ranch operation to plan its vegetation composition and calculate the correct pasture sizes. It can also be used to create a database of fences, roads, brush treatment dates, repair dates, and rotation schedules.
Ranchers are nothing if not innovative. Agriculture is a tough industry, and those that survive in ranching are the ones that have continued to evolve, finding new ways to address the challenges that they’re forced to continually meet. Fortunately, new technology in the beef industry has provided some cutting edge tools that ranchers can use to bring operations and profit margins to the next level.
Before you start using these technologies take some time to read our article on cattle behavior and handling here.