The animal article of the month for September is entitled “Editorial: Precision livestock farming: a ‘per animal’ approach using advanced monitoring technologies

animal has just published a special issue on Precision livestock farming (PLF). PLF can be defined as ‘real-time monitoring technologies aimed at managing the smallest manageable production’. This methodology is also known as ‘the per animal approach’.

The integration of PLF into scientific communities is of interest. The EAAP annual meeting in Copenhagen in August 2014 was, to the best of our knowledge, the first animal science federation to host an international symposium on PLF. The EAAP 2014 facilitated ‘cross-disciplinary’ discussions focusing on interpretations of sensed animal responses and the associated management actions. Several livestock sectors participated in the discussions: providers of animal-sensing technology such as start-up companies and sensor developers, mature industries such as retailers, animal feed suppliers, farm equipment providers, farm designers and veterinarians, covering the animal and human food chains, and  animal geneticists, nutritionists, health experts, zoologists, biologists, environmental scientists, i.e. animal-focused scientists, and the farmer organizations that usually attend EAAP annual meetings. The ‘questions and answers’ debates inscribed during this joint session’s discussions are published in a book, and a selection of full-length papers are presented as a topic in animal.

The first massive application of PLF, years before the term PLF was coined, was the individual electronic milk meter for cows. The first milk meters became commercially available in the 1970s followed by commercialised behaviour-based oestrus detection and later still, rumination tags and an on-line real-time milk analyser. In this special issue, we make use of these milk and behaviour parameters to detect post-calving diseases. Further accuracy to predict individual cows’ feed intake is reached by employing different sensors and by adding feeding behaviour to a feed-intake model.

The milking robot is a classical PLF application: the smallest manageable production unit in this case is one single quarter of an udder. This issue includes a review of milking-robot utilization and robot milking–pasture combination. Continuing with dairy in this issue, Kinect (3d Camera)-based system is applied for automatic lameness detection. Another approach for automatic lameness detection, gait behaviour and ground reaction forces, is also proposed . Infrared-thermography-based monitoring of body temperature of calves and gene expression of calves undergoing gradual weaning are presented in this special issue.

In meat production, this special issue presents monitoring of drinking behaviour of individual pigs housed in a group using radio frequency identification. We also see the development of automatic surveillance of animal behaviour and welfare using image analysis and machine-learned segmentation technique. Broiler chickens are usually fast-growing, bred intensively with up to 40 000 con-specifics. The farmers’ challenge is to reach high final body weight in a short time while maintaining an efficient feed-conversion rate. An application, presented in this issue offers vocalisation sound pattern identification in young broiler chickens.

This special issue covers the next generation applications. Its content provides evidence of the initial integration of PLF into the community of animal scientists, with a widening and deepening of research, development and evaluation of underlying concepts of PLF for a vast and diverse world of livestock production. Potential applications include individual animal food intake, automatic early detection of illness or stress, and monitoring of animal welfare. The prospects for further developments are manifest.

This article is freely available for one month:
Editorial: Precision livestock farming: a ‘per animal’ approach using advanced monitoring technologies
Authors: I. Halachmi  and M. Guarino 

The animal Article of the Month is selected by the Editor-in-Chief and is freely available for one month. View the recent selections


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