Accurate livestock management can be achieved by means of predictive models. Critical factors affecting the welfare of intensive beef cattle husbandry systems can be difficult to be detected, and Machine Learning appears as a promising approach to investigate the hundreds of variables and temporal patterns lying in the data. In this article, we explore the use of Genetic Programming (GP) to build a predictive model for the performance of Piemontese beef cattle farms. In particular, we investigate the use of vectorial GP, a recently developed variant of GP, that is particularly suitable to manage data in a vectorial form. The experiments conducted on the data from 2014 to 2018 confirm that vectorial GP can outperform not only the standard version of GP but also a number of state-of-the-art Machine Learning methods, such as k-Nearest Neighbors, Generalized Linear Models, feed-forward Neural Networks, and long- and short-term memory Recurrent Neural Networks, both in terms of accuracy and generalizability. Moreover, the intrinsic ability of GP in performing an automatic feature selection, while generating interpretable predictive models, allows highlighting the main elements influencing the breeding performance.
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