Animal Behavior and Well-Being Symposium I: Precision Technology and Animal Welfare
Precision Dairy Farming (PDF) technologies measure physiological or behavioral parameters from individual cows with the objective of enhancing animal health and welfare. Continuous monitoring of individual animals allows for detailed data record keeping and offers an opportunity to tailor management to the individual. Here we present some of the available technologies related to some of the key animal welfare measures on dairy farms, such as lying and rumination behavior, lameness and BCS monitoring. Generally, changes associated with lying time and rumination behavior are precise at the individual level but still not able to be generalized between herds, regions and productions systems. Automated gait scoring and BCS of individual cows are commercially available and becoming more accessible, allowing for increased opportunity for use on commercial dairy farms and in dairy research. Any use of PDT should understand the precision, accuracy and bias of the devices used, especially when interpreting herd summaries and regional averages. Most technologies evaluated are highly precise, but many fail to be accurate. In addition to their uses for farmers, PDT with high accuracy also aid researchers and processors to collect comprehensive data sets and reliable records. Overall, the potential uses of precision technology tools are likely to become more common on farms, and consequently improve dairy cattle management strategies, aid in herd monitoring, and improve animal welfare at the individual level.