Accurate & Efficient Production pt. 1: Animal Welfare

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A major trending topic in the industry is Animal Welfare. A considerable amount of public concern has risen regarding the conditions in which producing animals are kept and has led to the need for developing methods to verify minimum animal welfare standards. The demand for companies to be more efficient and competitive is growing constantly and all the modern production companies are evaluating how to deliver results without minimizing control of the product and achieve a high standard of Animal Welfare.  

In intensive protein production a large number of factors, such as environmental conditions in the production house, stocking densities, thermal condition or difficulties in accessing feed and water can be major sources of stress that can lead to welfare deterioration and reduced performance, many of these factors can be controlled through well-established management practices to provide an optimal environment. 

However greater intensification also has implications on animal welfare. Economics of production and concern for the welfare of the animal MUST be considered together in order to ensure that good welfare is an economically viable part of the sustainable, efficient protein production needs.

Technology to measure and assess of welfare is becoming a more and more essential tool for the protein producer in order not only to meet welfare and food safety standards but environmental, feed, land labour and other pressures. Technology can also help to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the stockman and improve stockman-ship.

WhWhile good stockman-ship remains essential even to intensive protein production, now more than ever there is an increase in important roles for automated measures of welfare that allow continuous assessment of large commercial flocks and so lead to more effective management. For example, smartphone cameras inside barns are able to detect flock distribution, using simple measures of optical flow.

The same system is able to detect flocks that are likely to end up with a high percentage mortality and high levels of deseases as measured in the slaughter plant, however even greater improvements in flock management with consequent improvements in both efficiency and welfare are possible by improving the analysis of the data already collected by producers, such as records of mortality, culls, water use, vaccination, temperature and humidity.

Precision farming, defined as the management of livestock production using the principles and technologies of process engineering, is based on automatic data acquisition, access, and processing. Data from diverse sources are collected through smart sensors and compiled to a central database, where they will be later analyzed to create an automatic management system based on real-time monitoring to control animal performance, health, and welfare. 

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