The Big Picture – The importance of genetics in supply chains

March 17-18

Todd Davis and Tyler Mark

One theme from the last two days is the role of genetics in the supply chain. We saw this in the form of seed corn/soybeans, dairy and beef cattle genetics, and the thoroughbred industry.  The trip to Dow provided an opportunity to understand how seed companies harvest, dry, shell, bag and ship seed corn throughout Argentina and South America.  We talked about the role of technology fees in compensating technology companies for their research and development. Argentine farmers historically retain soybean seed so farmers do not pay the technology fees. As a result, some seed companies have attempted to collect from farmers at their first point of sales either at the local elevators or the export ports. This heavy-handed collection methods has eliminated any goodwill the farmers had towards this seed/chemical company.

Genetics is crucial with respect to the chemicals used in the production process. By visiting Rizobacter, we learned how seed treatments can be used to improve nitrogen fixation in the soybean plant. Rizobacter provides many type of soybean treatments designed to work with specific corn and soybean genetics that will improve the plant’s ability to use soil nutrients. As the technology improves, farmers may be able to reduce the quantity of chemicals and use seed treatments to meet the same production goals.

big pic m175

There are thousands of microbials in the soil that have yet to be fully understood by agricultural microbiologists. This suggests an exciting future for this industry which may further change the production process by having farmers bundle seed technology with chemical and microbial products. Given the variability of soil types, the opportunity for site-specific prescriptive recommendations exists. The onus will be on farmers, consultants and Extension to understand the agronomic and economic potential of these bundled products

For the livestock industry, we visited CIAVT which is the largest cooperative in Argentina that sources beef and dairy semen. We learned how the dairy sector relies on AI for genetic improvement far more than the beef sector. The efficiency gains of genetics come from production systems that removes stressors from the cattle’s environment. Hence, the most productive dairy herds are in the US, Canada, Germany and Holland that have the ability to provide comfortable temperatures for the dairy cows.

Finally, the horse industry is an industry built upon advertising of genetics through the animal’s pedigree. The thoroughbred industry relies on the pedigree to establish premiums for horses; especially those animals with limited history on the track. This market is a niche and high-end market which makes the genetics particularly important as the pedigrees of the best horses are known among potential buyers.

For the livestock industry, we visited CIAVT which is the largest cooperative in Argentina that sources beef and dairy semen. We learned how the dairy sector relies on AI for genetic improvement far more than the beef sector. The efficiency gains of genetics come from production systems that removes stressors from the cattle’s environment. Hence, the most productive dairy herds are in the US, Canada, Germany and Holland that have the ability to provide comfortable temperatures for the dairy cows.

Finally, the horse industry is an industry built upon advertising of genetics through the animal’s pedigree. The thoroughbred industry relies on the pedigree to establish premiums for horses; especially those animals with limited history on the track. This market is a niche and high-end market which makes the genetics particularly important as the pedigrees of the best horses are known among potential buyers.

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