During the past decade, we saw numerous changes in beef and dairy production, and in the ways veterinarians serve those industries. These include the emergence of remote monitoring, advanced data systems, new diagnostic tools, genomic technologies, acceleration of antibiotic-resistance in cattle pathogens and drug resistance in cattle parasites.
Most of these trends will continue through the 2020s, and we’ll see the emergence of new trends, new insights and applications for science and technology in animal agriculture, along with changes in regulations, production practices, consumer perceptions and preferences.
While no one can predict every trend, veterinarians serve as forward-looking change agents in animal agriculture, as they continuously evaluate new systems, products, practices and philosophies for potential adoption on their clients’ operations.
With that in mind, we asked veterinarians for their thoughts on the key challenges and opportunities for success in eight categories during the decade of the 2020s. Following are their responses related to animal genetics.
Hans Coetzee: Further in the future, expanded use of gene editing technologies will accelerate changes in livestock phenotype. Examples include the use of CRISPR or TALEN gene editing platforms to accelerate the dissemination of polled genetics in Holstein cattle to reduce the need for dehorning. Other uses of this technology would be to increase disease resistance as has been demonstrated with PRRSV in pigs.
One could also anticipate increased interest in the delivery of immunocastration technologies to reduce the need for painful procedures at processing.
Dee Griffin, DVM, MS, West Texas A&M University: I have long thought genetics could make a large impact on BRD. The relationship is more complicated than an EPD, but some day we may be able to pull a straw from the semen tank and impact the potential for disease in the offspring.
Anonymous: More dairies will breed their lower-ranked females to beef semen. We have a huge surplus of dairy heifers, mainly due to sexed semen along with improved management practices and nutrition of the dairy calf. This may also result in an increasing supply of beef and lower beef prices, potentially causing conflict with beef producers. Average production per cow will continue to increase due to genomics, better genetics, and culling.
Jacob Geis: The veterinary community in general has not had a large role in genetic selection. Today's animals have the potential for incredible performance, but it seems we've also seen more opportunities for these cattle to break down. It will be incumbent upon us as a profession to work with the breeders and nutritionists to appropriately manage these higher-octane animals.
Mark Hilton, DVM, Elanco: DNA tests will continue to improve and be more useful. A test for heterozygosity will be clinically relevant when a dollar figure can be attached to this information.
Tom Furman, DVM, The Animal Center, Nebraska: We are just starting to scratch the surface as far as what we will learn and be able to influence with genetics potential in animals and plants.
For responses relating to other subject categories, see these articles on BovineVetOnline: