Up Close and Personal to Livestock
New technology and measurement techniques allow farmers to better plan the management of their farms. Richard ten Cate, from agricultural consulting firm FarmResult, explains how precision livestock farming is leading to improved welfare, productivity and sustainability.

In decades gone by, it wasn’t unusual for farmers to know each of their animals by name. This personal approach to the welfare of” Daisy” and “Peppa” meant farmers often knew the characteristics and quirks of their animals, allowing them to tailor the care for each individual.

In many ways, access to the latest technology and farm data is enabling today’s farmers to reconnect with this approach.

I’ve seen a lot of change in the industry, especially since my childhood when I grew up on a farm. Advances in genetics, housing, feed, and pharmaceuticals have all contributed to huge improvements in productivity, animal welfare and even sustainability. But the single biggest change is the management philosophy.

Precision livestock farming combines the latest technological advances, data access and measurement techniques to ensure high levels of welfare, while increasing the productivity of each animal.

I believe this personalisation will continue, with a tailored approach to each animal’s needs, such as feed rations and medical care based on individual data. As well as improving welfare and increasing productivity, it will result in a smaller environmental footprint.

Common examples of precision livestock farming include precision feeding systems, which allow farmers to feed livestock accurately, or farm management systems to help monitor the animals, acting as the eyes and ears of the farmer.

These systems also alert farmers to various needs of the animals by sending a text or email, saving time and allowing farmers to focus on the health and welfare of animals (even remotely) to maintain productivity.

In fact, farmers can use precision livestock farming to reduce stress factors and create an environment in which animals are more resistant to disease and infection, while closer monitoring also means signs of illness become more apparent.

Acoustic sensors, for example, can detect increased levels of coughing in pigs. This effectively creates an early warning system, allowing a farmer to take action before a disease outbreak. Other sensors can notify farmers when a cow is about to calf.

It’s important the industry adopts precision livestock farming to ensure animals, our Daisys and Peppas, benefit from the health and welfare opportunities produced by improved animal monitoring.

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