MSU hosts virtual field day on precision livestock farming

Michigan State University hosted a precision livestock farming virtual field day Wednesday, Oct. 7.

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State University hosted a precision livestock farming (PLF) virtual field day Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Researchers and outreach specialists from MSU, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Wisconsin and KU Leuven in Belgium focused on emerging technologies for cattle, swine and poultry production, including the long-term economic and animal welfare benefits of these techniques.

“We are excited to offer unique insight into PLF technology that is not typically possible with an in-person field day,” said David Thompson, MSU Extension livestock educator. “In this virtual format, we are able to gather some of the best minds in PLF from around the world.”

The live event was presented in an interactive format with conversation, question-and-answer sessions and videos. Topics were of interest to a wide range of audiences, including livestock producers, nutritionists, geneticists, researchers in animal science, veterinarians, engineers working in agriculture, animal well-being advocates and students interested in these fields.

The program featured:

  • Introduction

    • Janice Siegford, a professor in the MSU Department of Animal Science, and Madonna Benjamin, an assistant professor and MSU Extension swine veterinarian in the MSU Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences provided an overview of PLF. They shared their experience in using technology to monitor animals. Siegford and Benjamin provided an overview of what PLF technology is, covering the types of technologies that can be used in animal systems and what can be measured. They discussed the problems the technology can help solve and some of the challenges in trying to adopt PLF strategies.
  • Cattle

    • Joao Dorea, an assistant professor of precision agriculture and data analytics at the University of Wisconsin, discussed how computer vision systems can be an effective tool to integrate animal-level information and create predictive modeling for precise management decisions in dairy farms. In livestock operations, systematically monitoring animal body weight, biometric body measurements, animal behavior, feed bunk and other complex phenotypes is typically unfeasible due to labor, cost, and animal stress. Applications of computer vision are growing in importance in livestock systems due to their ability to generate real-time, non-invasive and accurate information.
  • Swine

    • Tami Brown-Brandl, a professor and the Dr. William E. and Eleanor L. Splinter Chair at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Benjamin shared their knowledge on the swine industry’s adoption of PLF. They addressed success stories in feeding/watering systems, as well as recent introductions to reduce piglet mortality in farrowing operations (sound and electrical stimulation). They highlighted emerging approaches designed to address key production challenges, including disease detection and aggression in finisher facilities and farrowing facilities.
  • Poultry

    • Tomas Norton, a tenure-track assistant professor in the Division of Animal and Human Health Engineering at KU Leuven in Belgium, covered the latest developments around PLF in the poultry sector and some of the challenges in taking this from the lab to the farm. He also covered how the industry can unlock potential of off-the-shelf sensors to create a cost-effective, data-driven approach.
  • Future directions of PLF

    • Juan Steibel, an associate professor in the MSU Department of Animal Science and the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, addressed possible uses of raw and pre-processed data streams obtained from PLF technologies for non-management applications in the livestock industry. In particular, he discussed the use of PLF data for making selection decisions for genetic improvement, assessing welfare at both the individual and herd levels, and for on-farm product/technology testing. For each case, Steibel compared the current state of data collection and its use, with the perspectives for using PLF data streams, and how that has the potential of transforming the livestock industry beyond facilitating management.

The program was recorded, and videos of the presentations are now available.

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