By Dr. Deb Hamernik, President, ASAS
August 10, 2016 – One of my first official duties as President of ASAS since leaving the JAM (Joint Annual Meeting) and ISAG (International Society for Animal Genetics) meetings in Salt Lake City, UT was to represent ASAS at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Society of Animal Science (aka Sociedade Brasileira de Zootecnia or SBZ) in Gramado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil on July 31 – August 4. SBZ was founded on July 26, 1951 and currently has more than 3,000 members from Brazil and around the world. The society has published the Brazilian Journal of Animal Science since 1973.
More than 700 people attended the SBZ meeting in Gramado this year. The program included 76 lectures, 36 oral papers, and more than 700 posters. The theme of this meeting was “Animal Production for Future Generations” and there were many undergraduate and graduate students in attendance.
There were also several presentations on sustainable livestock systems in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. One of the underlying themes from these presentations was the passion from scientists and livestock producers for beef cattle production, improving animal welfare, and protecting the environment. Dr. Valeria Pacheco Euclides (EMBRAPA) presented a visionary description of the Role of Brazilian Livestock Production in Feeding Future Generations. Since 1950, Brazilian beef producers have been responsible for a 79% increase in beef productivity and significant improvements in pasture quality, including increases in soil organic carbon. Without these increases in efficiencies, Brazil would need an extra 525 million hectares of pasture to produce the same amount of beef that is produced today. Dr. Euclides predicts that future livestock production systems will require more intensive knowledge and new technologies, including highly qualified personnel, the ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and precision management practices that will take advantage of local or regional characteristics to optimize efficient production of beef with fewer inputs and fewer natural resources.
Dr. Fabio Montossi from the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA) in Uruguay discussed Future Scenarios for Animal Production in Uruguay. Uruguay has around 1.2 million cattle and about 3.3 million people. All of the beef in Uruguay is raised on pasture, which allows for relatively low costs of production. Uruguay ranks #7 in the global export of beef and is the only country in the world that is able to trace individual animals throughout the production chain. The country has always been free of BSE and scrapie. Beef producers in Uruguay have not used hormones as growth promotants since 1978 and as a result, most of the beef that is exported from Uruguay goes to the European market. Uruguay also has laws to regulate animal welfare and soil quality. Dr. Montossi is especially concerned about the future of farmers and ranchers. He would like to see more programs to advise and mentor young people who are interested in farming and ranching. He thinks farmers and ranchers of the future will need to be able to use information technologies to communicate with the public and the media; have college training in business as well as agriculture; be open to new ideas, ready to change, motivated with a clear plan, and proactive in “doing” with others in their communities. They must also have a holistic approach to farming and ranching. Alignment of production systems with consumer preferences will be essential to a secure future for the global red meat industry.
Despite all of the optimism and support for beef production in Brazil, the current economic crisis and political uncertainties have resulted in significant decreases in federal funding for research. Dr. Roberto Camargos from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (aka Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico or CNPq) provided an overview of Funding Animal Science Research for Future Generations. The CNPq is similar to the National Science Foundation in the United States. The goal of CNPq is to foster research and develop human resources that are focused on research. Due to the economic crisis in Brazil, CNPq is not providing new scholarships, but is allowing everyone who is currently on a scholarship to finish their programs. In the future, they expect to focus on large projects in a network rather than on individual projects. He also expects there to be more limited use of animals for research in the future due to changes in public perceptions regarding animal well-being and stricter federal regulations for animal care and the environment.
The best quote of the meeting was from Dr. Roberto Sainz (University of California, Davis) during his presentation on Precision Livestock Production: Benefits for Producers, Consumers and Environment. According to Dr. Sainz, Brazilian students should “take off the headphones and learn to speak English.” Since few people outside Brazil speak Portuguese, it is likely that if Brazilian scientists would speak English and publish in English, they would contribute much new knowledge to enhance the sustainable production of animal-sourced foods to meet the growing global demand for meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Image: Wikimedia Commons