Data integration is key to the success of precision livestock farming, is the message from an animal behaviour expert at Harper Adams University.
Dr Mark Rutter leads precision livestock farming (PLF) research at the university, including the DASIE project – which aims to improve dairy cow health and welfare through the use of sensor technology.
The project focuses on data and farm system integration, as well as the development of dedicated sensor technology which will enable dairy farmers to improve cattle health and welfare through continuous monitoring of animal behaviour.
Reader in Applied Animal Behaviour at Harper Adams, Dr Rutter, said: “Aside from the DASIE project, I have been interested in the automated monitoring of farm animal behaviour since my career in research began.
“With all of the sensors currently available, farmers are facing a data overload and a lot of data is not being fully utilised.
“We need to help farmers to use it effectively through integration and also by leading research into new technologies such as Google Glass eyewear and other augmented reality applications.
“We need to investigate novel ways to enable farmers to connect the data to the cows visually, as they are observing the herd in front of them.
“But regardless, these advanced technologies do not replace good stockmanship and the technology is only as good as the people using it.”
Dr Rutter believes that enabling livestock farmers to visualise the data as they work with their animals should help to reduce the problems caused when a sensor or identification collar is allocated to the wrong animal.
He added: “We held an extremely successful conference at Harper Adams in September that identified the current threats and opportunities in PLF.
“We are now in the process of establishing sector specific meetings to discuss the issues raised in more detail.
“We also hope to begin to change the public’s perception of PLF, as there is a current mistrust of intensification and automation.
“But what is important to remember is that PLF is not necessarily about making intensive farms more intensive, it is about monitoring individual animals so that farmers can better cater for their individual needs.
“PLF has a potential role to play regardless of the size and location of the farm.”
The DASIE (Dairy Animal Sensor Integrated Engineering) project has been co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency – Innovate UK, and is led by IceRobotics Ltd in association with Harper Adams, Dairy Crest and Kingshay.
Click here to see the publication on Harper Adam’s website.