Animal Behavior & Well Being Symposium: Precision Technology & Animal Welfare
By: Anne Zinn
On the afternoon of July 9 2019, Dr. Lindsey Hulbert of Kansas State University presented on precision animal welfare for pigs as part of the Animal Behavior & Well-Being Symposium at the ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX. Specifically, Hulbert emphasized improving product-efficiency and environmental impact by outlining three examples of development and application of precision animal welfare that her team is currently working on. This includes a response system to stimulate sows to stand when they are crushing piglets, a visual-based automatic tracking system to detect sickness and antagonistic interactions at a per-animal level, and environmental enrichment that provides mental stimulation to pigs and automatically collects data. Hulbert stressed that this environmental enrichment could be used for commercial pigs and improve the welfare of pigs in intensive systems, therefore increasing management and production. Additionally, Dr. Courtney Daigle, Texas A&M, discussed the importance of improving beef cattle management with the integration of environmental and behavioral technologies. Daigle explained that while there are many useful welfare technologies out there, there remains a need to develop integrative technologies that evaluate the relationships among individual animal movement, group dynamics, indivisible health, and overall productivity to accomplish specific goals within production and management. Integrating these important technologies would establish a type of “knowledge hybrid vigor” regarding the ability to evaluate animal welfare, in turn providing producers a comprehensive evaluation of each animal as an individual and within the group context. Daigle explained that, moving forward, this type of welfare assessment approach would require ubiquitous adoption of individual animal identification in order to maximize cattle welfare.
The symposium also featured Dr. Jasmeet Kaler, an Associate Professor from the University of Nottingham, discussing increasing animal welfare and efficiency on-farm; Dr. Joao Costa from the University of Kentucky discussing the use of technology for individual measures, record keeping and early disease detection in dairy cattle; and Dr. Heather Neave from AgResearch discussing individual information and role in dairy goat management.