Embrace the Change
We’re all playing new roles in this beef tech world
By Dr. Arn Anderson, DVM
“HI!! HOW ARE YOU? AND THE KIDS?” I always knew when my grandmother was speaking long distance. It made sense (sort of); if she was in Wyoming and the rest of the clan was in Texas why wouldn’t she have to scream to be heard all that way. This is not the same as my sister who yells at people that don’t speak English. According to her, sound, at higher decibels, bridges the language barrier. Grandma simply did not completely grasp the technology. Electricity came to their house in the 50s and they got a phone at about the same time. They could use the neighbor’s party line before that but now they had their own line. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, give us more free time and make us far more productive. For the most part this is true, once we adapt and adopt whatever it is that we didn’t know we needed help with.
I laughed at that one kid in my college dorm that had an Apple desktop computer. I remember discussing that it was just a toy and a gimmick; electric typewriters, with the correction ribbon, were great and heck, we’d just replaced the slide rule with a calculator. We all had professors that said calculators were the “lazy way” and would never be allowed on exams. Now exams are on-line taken at home on your Apple laptop.
I’ve never been accused of being a forward thinker. At our clinic we are proud of our modern medical library but to be honest most visiting student externs and all new grads have the books on-line or access a large library faster than I can select what expensive text I need to use to look up some question. All of our medical records, health papers, Coggins forms, and breeding soundness exams are electronic and can be accessed on a cell phone. I will admit that I have been caught shaking an IPad like an Etch-a-sketch trying to erase whatever form I was trying to fill out.
In beef production we can pregnancy test a cow with a blood sample, judge body condition score with an App, examine thousands of bovine DNA markers with a drop of blood and determine the prognosis of a calf with respiratory disease using an electronic stethoscope. We can determine the gender of a 70-day old fetus with ultrasound, or better yet use sexed semen to produce whatever gender we want through AI. I was taught that AI began in Saudi Arabia when one desert prince tried to steal the semen of a rival’s prized stallion by putting a sponge in a mare. We’ve come a long way in animal production.
I have received hundreds of photos and videos by text or email. Cowboys and colleagues utilize their cell phones to get an opinion on injured or ill animals. Every ranch hand checking cattle on a horse or in the cab of a truck has a cell phone and can at least get an idea if an animal needs immediate treatment or if a herd problem is starting. He or she can save the photo and wait until they get back in cell range to get an answer. State practice acts are catching up with technology and allowing more and more progressive application of this common sense approach. It starts initial treatment faster, positively impacts animal welfare and potentially saves the producer money. Now there are those times when it is clear that I have received the wrong photo in the text. Like the young cowboy worried about a heifer that just calved inadvertently sending the picture of his wife with the question; “Do you think I should keep her?”. Seems the two photos were next to each other and his thick glove finger hit the wrong little square. Or the face time call from a three year-old dancing in his pull-ups and cowboy boots to the radio in his momma’s kitchen. His momma can be heard in the back asking what he was doing. When he said “dancing for the man on your phone” the sound of screams and dishes being dropped was followed by apologies.
I receive videos of lameness, skin problems and pinkeye, calving problems, labored breathing and dead cattle. I have helped a new grad 75 miles away repair an umbilical hernia on a calf using an iPad and the facetime App. This rapid spread of information is fantastic and I expect to start getting drone videos of grazing cattle or calves in a yard. Those of us in beef production need to find ways to adapt to the technologies that help raise more beef at a lower cost. Necropsies (autopsies) can now include videos and photos, helping to get a rapid more accurate diagnosis. Drones won’t replace cowboys and ultrasounds and blood tests will not replace veterinarians, but we will all have new roles.
Grandma passed away in 1976. She went from swimming her horse across the Laramie River to watching the moon landing but she never quit yelling long distance. And by the way the Arab mare was bred with the sponge and the young cowboy and his wife welcomed their new son into the world ten months after his mistaken text. It may have been sooner but it took a while for his wife to get over being mad.