Will Your Kids Follow in Your Footsteps?

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Farm Journal polls reveal readers’ opinions about the future they see for their children in livestock industries.

What future do you want for your kids?  It’s an age-old question with monumental weight. So, we asked our readers. “Would you encourage your children to enter your industry?” Here’s a breakdown of results by industry.

Beef industry

Nearly three-fourths of beef producer respondents said they would encourage their children to enter the beef industry. Indeed, the number of U.S. farms with cattle increased from 2012 to 2017, albeit by a small margin, 0.2%, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture. One first-generation farmer is incorporating cattle into his diversified operation, which also includes crops, hogs and moonshine. The rest of his story is covered in The First Years podcast. 

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Pork industry

Most hog farmer respondents, 59%, said they would encourage their children to enter the pork industry. This may not be surprising when the number of hog farms grew by 5% from 2012 to 2017 to a new total of 66,439 hog farms, according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture. For a success story of a young adult returning to the family farm, check out Can the Small Pig Farmer Thrive in the Future? 

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Large animal veterinary medicine

Bovine veterinarians reflected a perfect split, with 50% of respondents reporting they would encourage their children work in the bovine veterinary industry and 50% saying they would not. Bovine veterinarians face many challenges, including strenuous work hours and high student debt. Yet many states are stepping up to help young veterinarians meet the need in underserved rural areas. For more on how two young veterinarians are taking advantage of these programs, check out the article A State of Need.  

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Dairy industry

Only 36% of dairy respondents said they would encourage their children to enter the dairy industry. It’s no secret the dairy industry has faced several hard years, and many dairies have been sold. As many farms have difficult conversations in years ahead, farm transition will be increasingly important, and this article on farm transition, The Next Generation: A Healthy Transition, may help. Dairy farmers discouraged by years of poor prices may be relieved to hear milk prices are the highest they have been since 2014.

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Final thoughts

While these results reflect what parents want for their children, another report, Nielsen's Total Audience report, analyzed what members of Generation Z want.  It is important to note the results are not tied to one specific industry or livestock species. Only half reported wanting to inherit the family farm. However, Generation Z did report a positive perspective towards interacting with the government and being part of trade associations. Maybe we need to take more time to ask the next generation what they’re looking for. This interview with Miriam Martin, a millennial planning to return to her family’s farm, discusses the pressure many young adults in agriculture face.

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