At the Geis ranch and in our practice, we like to use the most recent technology to be as efficient as we can. Whether that is using growth hormones or spraying weeds with herbicide, if we can use less natural resources to make our product, we are going to do it. When faced with someone who disagrees with these technologies, they try to offer the platitude, “If you gave up that technology, you could just raise more cows. You’d probably even make more money that way!”.
Let’s face it, we’d all like to have more cows and make more money. But once again, it’s not quite that easy. You see, a cow requires a certain amount of forage (a.k.a. grass) to live a healthy life and raise a calf. Because we only own a certain amount of land, that means that we can only grow a finite amount of forage for our cows. We can’t just “have more cows” because we stopped using a technology, there’s only so much forage to go around!
This underscores why we use modern technology–it allows us to use less natural resources (forage, water, etc.) for every pound of beef we produce. The benefit is twofold; we spend less money so our profit is larger AND we can conserve resources to support native plant and animal life.
The next response that one might give is, “Well, if everyone stopped using this technology, then beef prices would go up because supply would go down.” I wish beef prices could be predicted that simply, but that’s not how it works. Once prices get too high, people switch from eating beef to eating pork and chicken instead. And pigs and chickens consume a diet of almost entirely corn and soybeans, which means that more pasture gets torn up to be farmed instead of staying as native grasslands.
Looking at the challenges we are facing in the future (increasing protein demand, high demand on natural resources, an aging farmer population) tells us we cannot move backwards, we need to embrace technology. Offering that it might be a greater benefit to me, the rancher, to not embrace a technology so as to be more inefficient contradicts my goals to be profitable and a good steward of the environment. Let’s stop with the fear-mongering over technology, and instead look to how we can make ag technology even more efficient so our world can overcome those challenges ahead.
Photo credit: http://bitsocialmedia.com/2013/07/23/slaying-the-troll/