Data-driven techniques that validate assuranceon on-farm animal welfare standards within dairy production and its impact on the environment.
The value proposition at the core of Precision Farming is founded on enabling farmers to make informed management decisions that optimise the individual milk yield of every animal in the herd e.g. change feed rations to prevent the deterioration of a particular health condition or to implement early, other interventions and treatments. The integration of core sensor data streams to yield a disease detection and decision support service results in a greater benefit than that derived from measurements from standalone sensors alone. Each data stream of the integrated solution senses different manifestations of health, with key information being either behaviour- or metabolite-based. The principle market to be addressed centres on the provision of a range of services that optimise operations on farms, enabled by a decision support platform.
The dairy farming community, in addition to striving to remain profitable through the optimisation of production efficiency, are facing ever increasing pressure from the consumer/lay public whose entrenched perception is that current farm animal husbandry practices are detrimental to animal welfare. Although these negative attitudes are as a consequence of a lack of knowledge on the realities of dairy animal production, the disconnect between members of society and those that are actively involved in the sector impacts significantly on the economic viability of a key industry. The reasons in support of, or opposed to, a particular farming practice are manifold, and most if not all, lack robust evidence in support of assertions. Notwithstanding the ambiguity in the reasons underpinning the perceptions, in general, citizens prefer practices that are deemed natural. The most common practices on many dairy farms viewed as being unacceptable are early cow-calf separation and housing dairy cattle in zero-grazing systems.
In this context, Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) is an important strand to satisfying the increasing world-wide demand for animal products of good quality and the increasing societal concerns over animal welfare and health, whilst significantly reducing environmental load and resource use. Animal husbandry centres on the monitoring of animal health, wellbeing and productivity and based on the resultant information, identifies issues that inform on the optimum intervention in advance of the onset of criticality. Traditionally, farming practices are largely executed by humans using knowledge and skills inculcated over many years, but the approach is increasingly difficult to sustain. In many parts of the world, farming businesses are increasing in scale in order to remain profitable and due to the increasing cost of skilled labour, the availability for husbandry staff to monitor animals effectively has been compromised.
The innovation addresses some of the evolving concerns of consumers and retailers of milk and dairy products, in particular the demands for robust evidence on animal welfare standards and the environmental footprint of dairy production systems. Moreover, the UK sector post-BREXIT, from necessity, will be presented with new challenges to export or indeed to replace imports of high-value dairy products; thus, production must be executed with embedded validation of the highest quality in respect of both cow welfare and environmental footprint. The development centres on new k Although there is a strong evidence that farmers are adopting technology-based solutions for the optimisation of on-farm practices, such as management of fertility and feeding, other wider potential benefits owing to sensor-derived data have not been fully mined, the most potential for impact being the foundation for the integration of the end-to-end supply chain incorporating the processors and retailers with the consumer at its heart.