Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

New System Gives Insight into Animals' Feeding Habits / July 15, 2013 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

Photo: Agricultural engineer Tami Brown-Brandl using monitoring equipment at a feeder to evaluate a pig's eating behavior. Link to photo information
ARS agricultural engineer Tami Brown-Brandi and colleagues have developed a system that makes it easy for researchers and producers to monitor the feeding behavior of individual livestock. Click the image for more information about it.


For further reading

New System Gives Insight into Animals' Feeding Habits

By Sandra Avant
July 15, 2013

A new system that monitors livestock feeding behavior has been developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Agricultural engineers Tami Brown-Brandl and Roger Eigenberg at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Neb., designed software and hardware that incorporates standard radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and a commercial reader to monitor animals' eating habits. The system, designed to work in an industry setting, includes an ear tag applied to each animal, monitoring equipment and data recording and storage.

Scientists are using this data to determine the normal day-to-day variation in feeding behavior—the amount of time each animal spends eating, the number of eating events per day, and the timing of those events. By determining an animal's normal eating behavior, it might be easier to detect a sick animal when it starts spending less time at the feeder. These animals can then be treated early to help prevent severe illness. Information gathered might also be used to improve management and establish genetic differences within a herd, according to the researchers.

The low-cost system was first used to monitor feedlot cattle and has been adapted to grow-finish swine. Individual animal feeding behavior can be measured without any outside influence, according to Brown-Brandl, who works in USMARC's Environmental Management Research Unit.

In one study, antennas were mounted on standard swine feeders in six pens that each held 40 pigs. In addition to collecting feeding behavior data, video cameras were used to evaluate the durability of the system, which was shown to be dependable.

Scientists plan to use the system in future studies to examine feeding behavior as it relates to age, gender, weight gain and the health of animals.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Read more about this research in the July 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Last Modified: 7/15/2013