Q&A: ICTs and livestock performance
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CTA. 2004. Q&A: ICTs and livestock performance. ICT Update Issue 15. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57648
South Africa´s ARC Animal Improvement Institute (ARC-AII) is working to improve the biological and economic efficiency of animals through scientific research, development, evaluation and technology transfer. Deputy Director Dr Japie van der Westhuiz
What is the role of the ARC-AII in livestock management? The ARC-AII´s two key responsibilities are to carry out national research and development (R&D) in the field of livestock productivity, and to manage the National Livestock Recording and Improvement Schemes. Our activities put researchers and other institute personnel in direct contact with livestock farmers, industry and policy makers. We assess the needs of all livestock farmers, and develop products that will address those needs. What is the role of ICTs in livestock management and ARC-AII activities? In Africa, ICTs have become important tools for recording livestock performance and production levels. Many commercial farmers run PC-based recording and management software that turns raw performance data into information that can be used immediately at the local farm level. In many countries ICTs do not go beyond this level, but in South Africa most local livestock data is fed into the centralized Integrated Registration and Genetic Information System (INTERGIS). INTERGIS is managed by the ARC-AII as part of the National Recording and Improvement Schemes. The system sets national livestock productivity benchmarks, enables comparisons of all animals in terms of genetic potential, and provides policymakers and farmers with a reliable source of reference. INTERGIS therefore plays a pivotal role in keeping South Africa´s livestock producers globally competitive. INTERGIS contains productivity and performance data for beef cattle, dairy animals, small stock, pigs and poultry. Farmers or ARC-AII personnel record the data electronically at farm level using a PC or Palmtop and free software that allows them to directly transfer the data to INGERGIS. What are the challenges the ARC-AII faces in applying ICTs? Our biggest challenge is to expand the number of farm units with performance recording capabilities while maintaining our high levels of service for existing programme participants. Another challenge lies in maintaining the fine balance that exists between our R&D and technology transfer activities and the ICT skills and needs of livestock producers in South Africa. When developing applications that make livestock management practices more efficient and less time-consuming, our scientists always have to keep in mind that the majority of end-users will not be computer or ICT-literate. What are the most promising developments in the field of ICTs and livestock management, and how is the ARC-AII planning to pursue them? Advances in Palmtop technology and electronic reporting in standardized formats like PDF, as well as improved access to the web and thin client technology, are having a major impact on the uptake of livestock recording. Thin client technology, or server-based computing, enables users to access and use applications like word processing and spreadsheets over the Internet without having to install the software on their own computer. Another important development has been the rise of open source technology, which makes many ICT applications more affordable and is allowing Africans to develop and maintain their own ICT capacities. Many ARC-AII initiatives are based on open source technology - all our genetic evaluations as well as our pig recording and improvement database and web systems run on Linux. Also, investments in additional infrastructure, and mobile phone networks in particular, will allow livestock farmers and businesses in rural areas to gain faster and more efficient access to resources that could improve their livelihoods. mailto:email@example.com Dr Japie van der Westhuizen is ARC-AII deputy director. For further information, visit http://www.arc-aii.agric.za www.arc-aii.agric.z.