Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Global demand for meat has increased dramatically. Subsequent production increased from 80 to 300 million tons between the mid-1960’s until the start of this year.
Global demand for red meat is expected to rise by almost 50% by 2050.
This is due to continuous population growth and an increase in capita income globally.
The worrying factor is that growth in animal productivity is expected to slow down in the future.
The livestock sector currently occupies large areas of land, totalling as much as one third of global arable land and 8% of available freshwater reserves. Livestock activity, and in particular the sheep industry, will have to adapt to new and more modern scientific and technological systems.
The livestock sector, globally and locally in South Africa, wil have to be clear with its objectives to fulfil its mandate as contributor to food security. It will have to satisfy demand in an acceptable manner that will ensure consistent supply without any environmental damage or exceeding global resources.
Animals with ruminant digestive systems are under massive scrutiny by environmentalists and to modernise is not only feasible but necessary in the future.
Developing regions like Africa is expected to be at the forefront of meat production which is said to increase 2.5-fold from 20 to 71 million tonnes by 2050. South Africa, as a leader in agricultural in Africa, should seize the opportunity to establish itself as a leading producer not only for own consumption but also for exports to the continent as a whole.
This, however, will only be possible if we adapt to a well-planned, well-informed and securely structured livestock industry with innovation and technology as leading drivers in our endeavours.
Horizontal and archaic farming practises that are still the norm today will fail dismally in its ability to equip our sheep farmers to answer the call of future demand and opportunity.
The inability to restructure the activities of sheep farmers and sheep industry is not limited to South Africa alone. The phenomenon is reported from first world as well as developing countries.
It is strange to witness the adaptation to the latest innovations and technologies by farmers in plant-based and other forms of farming as opposed to livestock and, in particular, sheep farming.
In Australia, a professor in animal sciences refers to his father as a two-brained individual who has adopted the most advanced technological and scientific applications in grain farming, but is still operating his sheep farming enterprise as if in the dark ages. Both are substantial to the farm but the sheep are regarded as a necessary hobby.
Sheep on South African grain and even mixed farms are also regarded as less significant with little financial support. It is, however, the first commodity to call upon and to penalize in times of droughts or weak grain returns. It all too often becomes the saving grace to such farmers in times of need.
If grain farmers invest in a good sheep industry, they will still have full value in times of drought as opposed to grain where all is normally lost in the everchanging weather conditions.
Imagine what scientifically run Smart-farms, with technological support from artificial intelligence, Big Data processing and qualified analytical input will do in the support for a future sheep enterprise currently in decline.