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Open AccessFeature PaperReview

A Systematic Review of Precision Livestock Farming in the Poultry Sector: Is Technology Focussed on Improving Bird Welfare?

1
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3SZ, UK
2
Center for Proper Housing: Poultry and Rabbits, Division of Animal Welfare, University of Bern, Burgerweg 22, CH-3052 Zollikofen, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(9), 614; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090614
Received: 13 July 2019 / Revised: 21 August 2019 / Accepted: 23 August 2019 / Published: 27 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Welfare Assessment Protocol)
Precision livestock farming (PLF) is the use of technology to help farmers monitor and manage their animals and their farm. This technology can help to improve animal welfare by enabling farmers to act as soon as any problem arises. However, the technology can also be used to increase production efficiency on the farm, which could be prioritised over the animals’ welfare. The aim of this study was to give an overview of PLF technology development in poultry farming, and to investigate whether improving welfare has been the main goal of PLF development. The results suggest that PLF development in poultry farming so far has focussed on improving animal health and welfare, more so than increasing production. However, despite the interest in PLF research for poultry farming across the world (especially in the USA, China and Belgium), most of the technology is still being developed (prototypes); only a few are available for farmers to buy and use. This means that future work should focus on making these technologies commercially available to farmers, so that systems developed to improve welfare can be used to improve the welfare of farmed birds in the real world.
Precision livestock farming (PLF) systems have the potential to improve animal welfare through providing a continuous picture of welfare states in real time and enabling fast interventions that benefit the current flock. However, it remains unclear whether the goal of PLF development has been to improve welfare or increase production efficiency. The aims of this systematic literature review are to provide an overview of the current state of PLF in poultry farming and investigate whether the focus of PLF research has been to improve bird welfare. The study characteristics extracted from 264 peer-reviewed publications and conference proceedings suggest that poultry PLF has received increasing attention on a global scale, but is yet to become a widespread commercial reality. PLF development has most commonly focussed on broiler farming, followed by laying hens, and mainly involves the use of sensors (environmental and wearable) and cameras. More publications had animal health and welfare than production as either one of or the only goal, suggesting that PLF development so far has focussed on improving animal health and welfare. Future work should prioritise improving the rate of commercialisation of PLF systems, so that their potential to improve bird welfare might be realised. View Full-Text
Keywords: precision livestock farming; poultry; health and welfare; systematic review precision livestock farming; poultry; health and welfare; systematic review
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Rowe, E.; Dawkins, M.S.; Gebhardt-Henrich, S.G. A Systematic Review of Precision Livestock Farming in the Poultry Sector: Is Technology Focussed on Improving Bird Welfare? Animals 2019, 9, 614.

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