Millions of people depend on pasture based animal production for their nourishment. In the context of globally limited food resources, each grazing system must be highly efficient. Precision livestock farming is mostly associated with indoor systems, but should also be applied to grazing systems. Animal health and weight gain are important factors that need to be monitored on a regular basis. However, frequent manual weighing of all animals in an extensive pasture would require significant effort. Therefore, the development of surveillance systems that are based on unmanned precision weighing would benefit farmers worldwide. Today, unmanned precision animal weighing systems, are already in practical use at indoor facilities. LiveStock PlannerⓇ, originally developed in Sweden for predicting target weights for slaughter in beef production, is a webbased production support system that distinguishes animals based on an electronic identity (radio frequency identification ear tag; RFID), relate the weights to each animal and makes the data accessible through a distributed sensor network (www.hencol.com ). The information from this system supports decisions such as feed ration formulations and slaughter planning. In addition, the system can be used to detect animal with abnormal weight gain curves. Hence, the system can be used for early detection of parasitic infection in calves. At alarm, so called targeted selective treatment (TST) can be undertaken. This means that only the affected individuals are dewormed with an anthelmintic. An advantage of the TST approach is that the use of anthelmintics is minimised, which is in accordance with the rules of organic production.
The technology was tested in an experiment at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skara, Sweden. To facilitate automatic weighing also at remote pastures, scales powered by solar panels were included. The automatic weighing stations were situated in close proximity to a source of water, salt and minerals so that animals would voluntarily pass through them on a regular basis. The number of recordings per animal throughout the grazing season varied a lot, with an average of five usable recordings per animal per week. The findings showed that the weighing technique worked well; hence, the developed method demonstrates great potential as an automatic supervision tool for grazing cattle. However, in grazing areas with natural water sources, a reward more attractive than the water, salt and minerals used in this study is needed to ensure frequent voluntary passage of cattle through the scales.
Arvidsson Segerkvist, K., Höglund, J., Österlund, H., Wik, C., Högberg, N., Hessle, A. (2020) Automatic weighing as an animal health monitoring tool on pasture. Livestock Science, 240, 104157; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2020.104157
This article has not been revised since publication.
This post was created by Katarina Segerkvist on January 21, 2022.