15 Mar

Using Modern Technologies to Improve Livestock Production

nutriNews International sat down with Dr. Suresh Neethirajan to talk about the benefits of implementing PLF technologies in livestock farming. Dr. Neethirajan is a professor and industry consultant, and a part of Farmworx at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Using Modern Technologies to Improve Livestock Production

“Modern technologies and digitization can allow livestock producers to optimize their operations. Creating more efficient production systems, reducing environmental impacts,lowering production costs, and enhancing productivity.”

nutriNews International sat down with Dr. Suresh Neethirajan to talk about the benefits of implementing PLF technologies in livestock farming. Dr. Neethirajan is a professor, industry consultant and a part of Farmworx at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Dr. Edgar Oviedo: Hello to all of our audience. We would like to welcome Dr. Suresh Neethirajan! It is a pleasure to have you with us as part of our series of interviews for nutriNews International. We know that you have had the opportunity to work in several places around the world, gaining considerable experience in your field of expertise. However, I think it would be best if you could tell us a little more about yourself, and about your current work.

Dr. Neethirajan: Thank you Edgar, and thank you Agrinews for this invitation to share with members and stakeholders of the community. In regards to my background, I am a professor, researcher, and industry consultant in the area of Digital Livestock farming (DLF). I have had different work experiences in North America, Europe, and Asia. I am currently based in Wageningen University in the Netherlands developing solutions and also consulting with several industries, looking at how we can incorporate Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) for enhancing animal welfare and productivity.

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Dr. Oviedo: Suresh could you explain what PLF means, and why it has gained so much attention in the past decade?

Dr. Neethirajan: Yes, so when we say DLF or PLF, Precision Livestock Farming or Digital Livestock Farming it is basically a technology driven approach. Making use of sensors, data analysis, computer vision and other computer driven analytical tools used for optimizing animal welfare, productivity, and efficiency. Nowadays consumers are giving a lot of importance on sustainability and ethical farming practices. As they are more concerned regarding the environmental impacts associated with farming activities. PLF technologies represent a methodology through which farmers can monitor animal welfare, as well as the environmental impact of their production systems, in order to meet these specific demands from the public.

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There have also been drastic advancements in technology, which has allowed for these technologies to become more affordable and accessible to the farmers. This has facilitated the use of digital tools and technologies to monitor and manage their livestock more efficiently. In the past few years there has also been a growing awareness regarding data driven decision making among the farming community. Thanks to this greater awareness from the farmers regarding the benefits of PLF technologies, their implementation allows to collect data for optimizing livestock production.

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We can also look at this topic from the following perspective. We have recently come out of the Covid 19 pandemic and there’s  a big focus on food safety and security. The global population is growing, and we are about to reach 8 to 9 billion people, so there is an increased concern regarding food security. Putting greater pressure on the farming community to increase their productivity and the efficiency of livestock farming. Therefore, these are all factors that have driven the attention towards PLF technologies ad their adoptions amongst the farming community.

Dr. Oviedo: Can you give us an example to help us understand how these types of technologies contribute to the optimization of resources and their applicability within livestock farming?

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Dr. Neethirajan: Yes, sure. PLF technologies help farmers optimize their use of resources in many ways.

  1. For example, they can help optimize the use of feed, as they allow to monitor feed intake in individual animals, and adjusting their feed rations. The feed intake of animals may vary according to their age, activity level, energy consumption. Sensors allow us to adjust the feed supply according to these variables. This contributes to reducing feed waste , by controlling feed supply and optimizing feed usage in different species, such as: poultry, swine, dairy cattle, etc.
  2. A second example I would say is the monitoring of animal health. We can monitor the signs of disease and certain injuries, much earlier. Even aggression, or pecking behaviors in poultry, tail biting in pigs; all of these can be monitored and even predicted through the use of sensors and this type of technologies. This information can allow farmers to intervene quickly by adopting adequate management practices to prevent the spread of disease, reducing the need of antibiotics or other medical treatments within that particular context.
  3. The third example, is related to the environmental monitoring. This helps farmers understand what are the temperature fluctuations, humidity levels, and air quality within specific farming environments. In order to determine if these rearing conditions are suitable for the animals, and if they allow them to exhibit their natural behaviors. Therefore, through the use of sensors and other technologies we can modify housing conditions in order to reduce stress, improve animal welfare, health and overall productivity.

  • One more application I would say is associated with reproductive management. We can understand the reproductive stages of individual animals and optimize breeding programs accordingly. This will help to improve the resilience, functional capacity and adaptive physiology of these animals.

 

Tools, like:

  • electronic feeding systems,
  • wearable sensors,
  • environmental monitoring platforms,
  • reproduction management systems,

are all examples of platforms and technologies that can be incorporated to achieve efficient and sustainable animal production systems….

You can watch the full interview on the following Youtube link:

You may also be interested in reading: Monitoring Nutritional Utilization in the Digital Age.”

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