Show Notes

This week on the podcast we have Professor Emeritus of Animal Science at Cornell University, Alan Bell, discussing his recent paper ‘Animal science Down Under: a history of research, development and extension in support of Australia’s livestock industries’.

In this paper, Alan discusses how back in 1788, as you may have guessed, “There wasn't any real systematic research done on the livestock side,” with the advances in the industry being achieved by the producers. He says, “It was really the innovative farmers, who were battling in a very foreign environment, to make money eventually, that had some wonderful successes.”

Alan runs through the following years, with the establishment of agricultural departments and colleges, before and between the two World Wars, with CSIRO being one of the most influential. 

Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, agriculture research was in what Alan calls the ‘golden years’. A time for practically limitless scientific exploration, mostly funded by the Wool Board, but also encouraged by strong political support and led by particular scientific ‘visionaries’. “Maybe that's just nostalgia, but I tell people that I began my career at the end of the golden era,” says Alan.

The 1970s and 1980s brought a more structured approach, with markets being more uncertain and funding being allocated elsewhere. However, through government initiatives and the introduction of levies, great research was still performed. For example, the beginnings of genomics for production and health traits. 

Mark and Alan finish off by discussing the current state of research in agriculture and where it’s heading in the future. 

This is a wonderful podcast and a must-listen for anyone interested in agriculture, history and the science that built the foundations of a great industry. 

You can find Alan's paper here:

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