Precision Livestock Farming in Swine Welfare: A Review for Swine Practitioners
Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, 736 Wilson Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering, Michigan State University, 428 S Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(4), 133; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9040133
Received: 7 March 2019 / Revised: 22 March 2019 / Accepted: 25 March 2019 / Published: 31 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New technologies to improve the sustainability of livestock farming (precision livestock farming))
The increasing implementation of technological advances originally developed for video gaming (PlayStation, Xbox) is helping to progress livestock production so that it is both more efficient and more focused on the welfare of the animals. Such advances are necessary to ensure that innovations can emerge from applications using cameras, microphones and sensors to enhance the farmers’ eyes, ears and nose in everyday farming. This technology for remote monitoring of livestock, termed precision livestock farming, is the ability to automatically track individual livestock in real time. The goal of this review is to apprise swine veterinarians and their clientele on precision livestock farming with a general introduction to the technology available, a review of research and commercially available technology and the implications and opportunities for swine practitioners and farmers. Drawing from pig welfare criteria in the Common Swine Industry Audit, this review explains how these applications can be used to improve swine welfare within current pork production stakeholder expectations. Swine veterinarians and specialists, by virtue of their animal advocacy role, interpretation of benchmarking data, and stewardship in regulatory and commodity programs, can play a broader role in facilitating the transfer of precision livestock farming and technology to their clients.
The burgeoning research and applications of technological advances are launching the development of precision livestock farming. Through sensors (cameras, microphones and accelerometers), images, sounds and movements are combined with algorithms to non-invasively monitor animals to detect their welfare and predict productivity. In turn, this remote monitoring of livestock can provide quantitative and early alerts to situations of poor welfare requiring the stockperson’s attention. While swine practitioners’ skills include translation of pig data entry into pig health and well-being indices, many do not yet have enough familiarity to advise their clients on the adoption of precision livestock farming practices. This review, intended for swine veterinarians and specialists, (1) includes an introduction to algorithms and machine learning, (2) summarizes current literature on relevant sensors and sensor network systems, and drawing from industry pig welfare audit criteria, (3) explains how these applications can be used to improve swine welfare and meet current pork production stakeholder expectations. Swine practitioners, by virtue of their animal and client advocacy roles, interpretation of benchmarking data, and stewardship in regulatory and traceability programs, can play a broader role as advisors in the transfer of precision livestock farming technology, and its implications to their clients.