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Top Livestock Technologies Improving Animal Husbandry

by Sunday Precious
A modern farm utilizing various livestock technologies, including automated feeders, wearable monitoring devices on animals, and potentially data screens in the background, to improve farm efficiency and animal well-being (Livestock Technologies).

Livestock provides essential renewable natural resources that we rely on daily. These include proteins, dairy products, and organic manure for plants. As a result, the demand for livestock products is increasing globally. Making it a valuable source of income for many communities. Approximately 70% of Africa’s population depend on livestock farming for their livelihoods.

This why understanding the dynamic landscape of animal husbandry and how it is being shaped by technological advancement is essential. Traditionally, livestock management is labour intensive. But, recent trends have shown that livestock technologies are revolutionizing the industry. This enables more efficient and data-driven production systems. 

In this article we will consider 4 of these livestock technologies shaping the livestock production industry. Let’s get started! 

Top Livestock Technologies

Various livestock technologies are improving the way farmers manage and care for animals. 4 of these technologies include; 

1. Precision Feeding Systems

A computerized feeding system distributing precise portions of feed to livestock, highlighting technology for optimized animal nutrition (Livestock Technologies).
Source: Agrifood and Biosciences

Precision feeding, like precision farming is a modern approach to livestock management. It focuses on meeting the nutritional needs of animals with precision. It also ensures their well-being, and optimises productivity. It uses advanced technologies like mechanics, automation, electronics, and information technology to measure  individual animal traits. These include body weight, feed intake, and feeding behavior. This data is then used to make custom rations for each animal. The rations are based on their specific needs at different stages of production.

Additionally, precision feeding systems often include automated feeders. They deliver the right amount of feed based on each animal’s requirements. This reduces waste and improves the efficiency of the feeding process. Precision feeding can also help farmers optimize their feeding strategies. It can reduce the environmental impact of livestock production, and bolster the health and productivity of animals.

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Benefits of Precision Feeding Technology

  • Feed Cost is Reduced. Traditionally, animals are fed with extra nutrients to ensure all get enough. Precision feeding allows for customized diets that meet each animal’s needs. This minimises wasted feed and lowers overall costs.
  • Improved Environmental Impact. Excess nutrients from overfeeding are excreted by animals. Thus, polluting waterways and contributing to greenhouse gases. Precision feeding reduces this waste, promoting a more sustainable farming practice.
  • Enhanced Animal Health: Overfeeding specific nutrients can harm an animal’s gut health. Precision feeding tailors nutrient intake. It reduces the need for antibiotics and promotes animal well-being.
  • Optimized Production. By providing the right amount of nutrients, precision feeding boosts growth. It also improves milk production, or egg-laying efficiency, leading to increased farm productivity.

Potential Drawbacks of This Livestock Technology

  • Increased Management Time. Precision feeding requires a shift from managing herds to monitoring individual animals. This can take time for farmers. They may need to collect data, analyze results, and personalize feeding plans.
  • Complexity and Cost. Implementing precision feeding involves complex technologies. Data collection systems, powerful computers for analysis, and specialized software are all used. This translates to significant upfront investments in equipment, software, and training for farmers.

2. Automated Milking Robots

A robotic arm attached to a milking machine automatically milking a cow, showcasing advanced technology in dairy farming (Livestock Technologies).
Source: ResearchGates

Automated milking robots are also known as Automatic Milking Systems (AMS). They are a modern innovation in dairy farming that allows cows to choose when to be milked by the system without any human intervention. The system consists of a robotic arm and an identification system. Both help to identify individual cows and monitor their milking schedules.

The AMS process may seem automated. But, it needs the same basic farm management as a regular milking system. The processes are just different to achieve the final product. The AMS process involves identifying individual cows by using tags. The tags are strapped to their legs, around their necks, or in their ears. The software then determines if the cow is due for milking and if it has milking permission. If the cow is not due for milking, the front gates open, and the cow is released. If the cow is due for milking, the teats are cleaned (optional) and teat cups are attached, one at a time. The cow is milked and the milk is then diverted to separate tanks. This is based on the operator’s software settings, or it enters the bulk or temporary buffer tank.

A robotic milking machine with descriptions of the parts showcasing automated milk production in a modern dairy farm (Livestock Technologies).
Source: AMS

The AMS usually collects data on cows and milk. This data includes live weight, quarter yield, quarter conductivity, and color. It also includes fat, protein, and SCC. It is used to monitor the health and productivity of the cows and to optimize the dairy farm’s operations. 

Advantages of Robotic Milking 

  • Cow-Centric Approach. Cows have more control over their milking schedule. This leads to improved well-being and reduced stress.
  • Data-Driven Decisions. Real-time data allows farmers to monitor cow health and milk quality. Thus, enabling informed milking and herd management decisions.
  • Labour Efficiency. While it requires farm management, AMS automates the milking process. Thus, reducing labour needs.

Potential Drawbacks 

  • Reliance on Technology. AMS utilizes remote monitoring and alerts, requiring reliable broadband internet and phone coverage. Spotty service could delay response to technical issues with the milking robots. This can also impact cow comfort and milk quality.
  • Cow Reliance and Management. AMS requires cows to willingly enter the milking stall throughout the day. Factors like access to fresh feed or concentrate become crucial. Farmers may need to adjust feeding strategies or cow behaviour training. The aim is to ensure cows visit the AMS frequently enough for optimal milk production.

3. Wearable Animal Health Monitors

A cow wearing a collar with monitoring sensors, demonstrating wearable technology for tracking livestock health and well-being (Livestock Technologies).
Source: SlideTeam

In today’s world, responsible livestock management prioritizes animal well-being. Early detection of health issues is also key to keeping animals healthy and productive. Wearable animal monitors offers a two for one solution. They give real-time insights into livestock health without harming animal comfort.

The data collected by wearable sensors, include thermal readings, images, and movement patterns. These are transmitted to external drives or cloud platforms. There, advanced algorithms powered by machine vision and deep learning analyze the information and these analyses give valuable insights to the farmer. 

For example, there is Ghanaian-based Anitrack. It uses location and movement sensors to make wearable devices and smart collars. The collars monitor cattle’s health and activity. This technology is highly beneficial to Africa, as cattle theft and cattle deaths due to disease are very common.

Other Examples of Wearable Animal Health Technologies:

  • Cameras and microphones:  camera and microphones can monitor activity levels, vocalizations, and coughing sounds. These sounds can indicate respiratory issues.
  • Nano Thermal Sensors: Tiny thermal sensors can continuously monitor body temperature. This helps detect fever and potential infections.
  • GPS Trackers: Wearable GPS trackers helps to track animal location and movement. They also help find sickness related behaviors or potential injuries.
  • RFID Tags: This can be implanted or attached. They provide ID and can store animal data helping farmers to streamline recordkeeping.

Benefits of Wearable Animal Health Monitors

  • Detecting illness early: Wearables can monitor vital signs nonstop. These signs include temperature, movement, and eating habits. This helps to detect early signs of illness which allows farmers to take timely action.
  • Reduced Stress Levels: Early detection minimizes animal discomfort. It also cuts stress from advanced illness.
  • Ethically okay: Unlike some traditional methods, wearables are less invasive. They promote animal welfare.
  • Wearables collect valuable data: When combined with decision-support systems, they help farmers make informed choices.

Drawback of Wearable Animal Health Monitors

  • Requires Stable Connectivity. Wearable tech needs good network coverage or cellular service. Farms in remote places may need to invest in more infrastructure. This is to ensure reliable data transmission.

4. IoT for livestock management

A network of sensors connected to livestock in a farm, illustrating the use of Internet of Things technology in animal management (Livestock Technologies).
Source: ScienceDirect

IoT is transforming livestock management from a reactive to a proactive approach. By using real-time data and smart analysis, farmers can make informed decisions. They can also ensure animal well-being and optimize farm operations. 

IoT systems gather data about livestock health, the environment, and behaviour using a network of sensors. The data is then sent, stored, and analysed. From monitoring vital signs to tracking location, IoT paints a comprehensive picture of animal well-being and farm operations.

As technology continues to evolve, we can expect even more complex IoT solutions to emerge. They will shape the future of a sustainable and productive livestock industry. In fact, from 2022 to 2029, the Internet of Things (IoT) in the livestock management market is expected to grow at 12.1%. It is anticipated that the market will reach USD 11.18 billion by 2029.

Benefits of IoT for a Thriving Farm

  • Real-Time Monitoring, Real-Time Action: Gone are the days of relying solely on intuition. IoT provides real-time insights into animal health. This lets farmers react quickly to changes in temperature, respiration, or activity. Finding health issues early means faster intervention. It also means better treatment outcomes.
  • Creating the Perfect Living Environment: Just like humans, livestock thrive under optimal conditions. IoT sensors monitor environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and air quality. This data empowers farmers. It helps them create ideal living spaces that promote animal comfort. It also boosts productivity.
  • Creates Peace of Mind: IoT livestock tracking goes past simple location monitoring. You can set up virtual fences, called geofences. They can alert you if animals wander outside set areas. This not only helps prevent escapes but also aids in managing grazing patterns and ensuring animal safety.
  • Early Detection of Illness: IoT systems can detect subtle changes by monitoring vital signs. These changes might indicate illness. This early warning system allows for quick treatment. It also reduces animal suffering and losses.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Data Security Concerns: As with any technology that collects sensitive data, security is paramount. To use IoT, we must take strong steps to protect animal health data, farm operations data, and farmer privacy from unauthorized access or cyber threats.
  • Integration Hurdles: Many farms have established management systems. Integrating IoT seamlessly with existing infrastructure and data management software can be very tricky. 
  • Cost consideration: The up-front investment in sensors, communication gear, and data management can be big. Carefully evaluating the cost-benefit analysis is crucial. However, improving animal health, reducing labor, and increasing efficiency provide long-term benefits. These benefits can lead to a positive return on investment. 

Emerging Livestock technologies include:

Other livestock technologies to watch out for include: 

  • Precision Fermentation:  Precision Fermentation uses microbes to create animal feed rich in protein and key nutrients. This can offer a sustainable alternative to soy and fishmeal. It reduces environmental impact and lowers feed costs.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) Training: Virtual Reality (VR) Training for Animals is an emerging technology. It allows for training animals in a safe, controlled virtual world. For example, farmers can use VR to desensitize cattle to handling procedures. This could reduce stress and improve animal welfare during routine farm activities.
  • Genomics: Genomics has advanced. It has allowed for the development of genetic tests which can help farmers. Using Genomics, you can identify animals with better disease resistance and productivity.
  • Remote monitoring: Remote monitoring is now possible due to the spread of high-speed internet and cloud computing. Farmers can now use cameras and sensors to watch their animals’ health and performance.

Conclusion 

The landscape of animal husbandry is undergoing a remarkable transformation. This article covers four livestock technologies. They are: precision feeding, robotic milking systems, wearable health monitors, and IoT solutions. By embracing these advancements, we can create a future where animal well-being, farm efficiency, and sustainability are woven together. As technology continues to evolve, the possibilities for revolutionizing animal husbandry are truly limitless! 

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