Precision Livestock Farming: a mere innovation or a revolution?

18/06/2020

Precision livestock farming is a buzzword in the industry. But what does it really mean?

It essentially refers to new technology for collecting livestock farm information combined with the power of data analysis, which improves the performance, health, and welfare of animals, while also improving the farmer’s efficiency. Precision livestock farming can also contribute to huge progress being made in terms of transparency in livestock farming methods, environmental sustainability, etc., which are important factors for the consumer.

Technology is becoming increasingly intelligent and companies are making use of it in order to meet growing needs for animal protein, given the need to conserve natural resources.

Optimising farmer efficiency

For the best possible outcome, we need to “breed” data, not just ducks, chickens, or pigs. The use of innovative sensors and modern monitoring systems makes it possible to collect vast amounts of data on animals in their environment in real time, allowing for analyses that help us achieve optimal animal performance while closely controlling food and energy consumption. Therefore, the animal’s health and welfare improve in tandem with the profitability and comfort of the farmer.

We can monitor the temperature, humidity, airflow, and the behaviour and comfort of the animals in the building. Valuable air quality indicators like carbon dioxide or ammonia measurements can be continuously assessed and related to animal performance in real time. Water flow sensors send notifications at times chosen by the farmer, indicating increases or decreases in consumption. Hot or cold spells can also be predicted to avoid growth performance deviations. The vast amount of data collected, analysed, and compared to performance forecasts, provides constant control over the livestock farm. The farmer is notified of deviations when needed and can anticipate future problems that would otherwise be invisible. Thanks to a wealth of more accurate information, the farmer can focus on the key issues that impact their production costs and the overall performance of their animals.

Water and food consumption, preservation of the environment, and production costs

Monitoring animals’ growth in real time and the growth curve of the batch, monitoring animals’ comfort at the food and water troughs; this provides key information that helps the farmer to accurately adjust the amount of food and water consumed, and therefore regulate daily food costs. Cutting down food costs is the first way a farmer can improve their profitability, and it is also the best way for them to help preserve natural land and water resources.

A natural move in the consumer’s favour

Consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it was produced. They want transparent and genuine information for optimal food safety! ! A blockchain guarantees consumers total transparency in the production and distribution channels that the food they consume goes though, for a “field to fork” guarantee. They can also find out where it came from, where it was bred or how it was produced, where it was processed, and its distribution network. Here you can see that the vast amount of data gathered at the livestock farm by new technology makes total sense. This data provides the blockchain with reliable, high quality information that aids in promoting good practices and highlights the farmer’s work.

Biosafety and Animal Health: improved safety

Sensors collect data and robots are present in modern henhouses, cleaning and disinfecting, and even monitoring the animals’ comfort and health. Air analyses, recorded sounds, litter temperature, air temperature, hygrometry, and animal movement all help to create forecasts of animal health at any given moment. In the future, digital applications and embedded social networks will allow for local, high accuracy “viral” alerts to be sent directly to the farmer, with real-time updates. Movement of people, trucks… everything to do with the livestock farm’s comings and goings will be traced. These all represent bolstered means of managing biosafety, which is still the biggest risk to a livestock farm’s economy and safety in the food chain.

Revolution ?

While the challenges inherent to feeding a growing and ever more demanding population with limited resources are many, new precision livestock farming technologies will provide decisive benefits, making production methods more efficient and more environmentally friendly. They provide an essential additional advantage: the ability to make a prompt and correct decision, with the best quality to price ratio—hopefully in anticipation rather than correctively.

It is not only “precision”, but “decision” livestock farming, as it provides the farmer with more power to guide their performance and take charge of their well-being, which provides sector stakeholders with high quality information, on the one hand to reassure a more involved consumer, and on the other to secure a supply of food for rapidly growing populations.

So, mere innovation or revolution?

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