5. Precision Livestock Farming
Livestock farming is facing tremendous challenges today:
- Increasing production: over the next 15 years, global demand for meat is expected to increase by 40% triggered by a growing number of people adopting protein-richer diets. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), technology solutions in agricultural and livestock production systems will play a key role to address this challenge and ensure an adequate food supply for an expected population of 9.7 billion by 2050
- Promoting sustainability & animal welfare: while increasing production, it will be important to find ways to minimize the environmental footprint of livestock farming and ensure high levels of welfare and health for animals.
- Alleviating farmers’ workload and ensuring economic viability of farm operations: it will be important find solutions that will enable farmers to manage large number of animals in an adequate and profitable manner.
Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) systems offer solutions to all of the above challenges.
- help farmers to increase livestock production and quality of production in a sustainable manner
- offer tailored care for the animals in terms of feeding, milking and housing
- make many of the farmer’s daily tasks much easier to handle
PLF management tools enable continuous, automatic monitoring of animal welfare, health, environmental impact and production in real-time. The latest PLF systems can help farmers to collect and manage detailed information to ensure livestock production is safe, environmentally sustainable and in compliance with highest health and welfare standards. Currently, PLF techniques are predominantly applied to the husbandry of pigs, poultry and dairy cows.
Examples of PLF systems include:
- Precision feeding systems: feeding systems allow farmers to feed their cows accurately, precisely and with minimal expenditure of work at all times (24/7).
- Precision milking robot: a good example of large adoption of PLF systems are automatic milking machines. These robotic systems can handle up to 65 cows on an average of 2.7 times per day.
- Stable and farm management systems: various PLF support and monitoring systems exist, which use cameras and microphones and thus act as the eyes and ears of the farmer at all times.
Benefits of PLF systems:
- Greater sustainability & higher productivity: recent studies show PLF management systems can raise milk yields, while also increasing cows’ life expectancy and reducing their methane emissions by up to 30%. Thanks to automated PLF techniques farmers are able to reduce time spent on routine, ordinary tasks and thus free up time to spend more time with the animals and manage larger herds, hence increasing efficiency, productivity, and animal friendliness.
- Increased animal welfare through an individual ‘per animal’ approach: PLF systems allow farmers to follow and manage the individual animal’s status and well-being closely at all times. They can detect diseases at an early stage, for instance, acoustic sensors can pick up an increase in coughing of pigs. PLF systems can also alert farmers of specific needs of animals by sending an SMS. Moreover, automated solutions operate without the limitations and constraints of human labour and thus provide more freedom for animals for self-determined, species-appropriate behaviour.
- Easier farm operations: PLF systems enable livestock farmers to take care of a large number of animals per farm, while providing individual attention to each animal and complying – and documenting compliance – with high quality and welfare standards.