Animal Behavior and Well-Being Symposium I: Precision Technology and Animal Welfare
Precision animal management (PAM), was a term created by engineers to describe technologies that improve the sustainability of intensive animal production systems. Focused efforts include improving product-efficiency and environmental impact (e.g. robotics in milk production). These PAM technologies have been incorporated in intensive swine production systems (e.g. feeding systems, waste-management). There is a perception that animal welfare efforts reduce efficiency, thus reducing sustainability. This perception is challenged with the development and application of precision animal welfare (PAW) technologies. Examples include: 1) a response system to stimulate sows to stand when they are crushing piglets (Swineguard, Swine Tech, Cedar Rapids, IA); 2) a visual-based automatic tracking system to detect sickness and agonistic interactions at an per-animal level (Schmidt et al., University of Nebraska at Lincoln, NE), and; 3) environmental enrichment (EE) that simultaneously provides mental-stimulation to pigs and automatically collects data (Hulbert et al., K-State, Manhattan, KS). The first two technologies may be applied for improved efficiency, which may not motivate animal caretakers to adopt new housing strategies. Restricted space-allowance limits behavior-expression, and consequently, limits the amount and type of data that can be gained from the technologies. Therefore, more work is needed to apply these technologies on pigs in alternative housing systems (e.g. pens instead of farrowing stalls). Animal welfare improves with EE, but pigs can extinguish EE-use (i.e. boredom) or destroy EE-devices. Non-destructible, stimulating EE were tested on mini-boars. The automated data served a behavioral-biomarker for detecting subclinical injury biomedical research projects. This EE can be scaled-up for commercial pigs and has great potential for improving welfare of pigs in intensive systems while simultaneous providing semi real-time information to animal caretakers at an per-animal level. For swine production, early-adopters and investors are needed to help animal welfare researchers and engineers to transform technologies from PAM into PAW.