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Future-Proofing the Dairy Sector

Those in and outside dairy know that the industry is no stranger to struggles. It’s had to make many transitions and adjustments. Mary Ledman, dairy global sector strategist for Rabo AgriFinance, is foreseeing changes that are exciting but challenging.

“It’s going to cause some dairy producers to look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘Is the dairy industry of the future one that I’m prepared for? What do I need to do to be part of it?’” said Ledman.

A lot of dairy producers like the animal husbandry aspects of their job or the cropping standpoint. Not only do dairy farmers need to excel in those areas, but also animal welfare, concern for the workforce, environment, and sustainability.

“We think that there’s tremendous demand change driven by the chain, so think about large, multi-national companies that have made climate and greenhouse gas commitments,” said Ledman. “Agriculture is going to play a key role in helping those companies make those commitments.”

Ledman is also seeing circular agriculture, carbon sequestering, and strengthening entrepreneurship all playing larger roles for the dairy farm of the future. She said technology will be at the center.

“That’s actually a driving point for bringing some farm kids who don’t want to farm the same way dad or grandma farmed,” she said. “[The] robotics, the technology and the traceability really gets them excited about this industry.”

How soon could we see some of these changes? By 2026.

“We’re going to see more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the past 20 years,” said Ledman. “It’s all going to be driven by the dairy sector’s ability to monitor report and verify their activities on farm and their activities towards sustainability are going to be crucial for our industry’s ability to have their social license to produce.”