ETHOLOGY OF FOOD PRODUCING ANIMALS
Location: Livestock Behavior Research
Title: Recent advances in the automatic collection of animal behavior and physiology
Submitted to: International Society of Applied Ethology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 15, 2008
Publication Date: August 5, 2008
Citation: Marchant Forde, J.N., Marchant Forde, R.M. 2008. Recent advances in the automatic collection of animal behavior and physiology [abstract]. In: Eds. L. Boyle, N. O'Connell and A . Hanlon. Proceedings of the 42nd International Congress of the International Society of Applied Ethology. August 5-9, 2008, Dublin, Ireland. p. 5.
The true assessment of an animal's state of being depends on the collection of refined, repeatable data, free from influence of the collection method or observer bias. The last few years have seen significant technical advances in automatic data collection pertaining to the animal and its environment. Although environmental data can be extremely useful, the most exciting advances have been with the collection of data from the animal itself. Early examples of automatic data collection include the radio-tracking of birds and feed recording in livestock. Since then, our capabilities have greatly increased so that we can now collect detailed information about aspects of an animal’s behavior, physiology, health and productivity. These data can be collected using a combination of non-invasive (environmentally mounted), more invasive (animal mounted) and most invasive (animal implanted) sampling systems. By using environmentally mounted systems, such as cameras, microphones and force plates, we can gather information on basic behavior, such as activity and use of space. We might be able to detect lameness (force plate analysis), respiratory disease (acoustic analysis) and general sickness (activity and thermoregulatory behavior analysis). Transponders mounted in ear tags or collars can supply information about feeding and drinking behavior. We can measure frequency of feeder visits, amount of feed consumed, duration of feeding bout and we may record feed order (e.g. sows entering an ESF) or location, identity of neighbors and degree of social facilitation (e.g. cows feeding at a cattle bunk). Coupled with a weigh station or an automatic milking system, we might also collect growth data and milk output. Changes in the schedule of visits to the milking robot and automatic detecting of milk quality can highlight cow health issues. Work with pedometers has advanced from the count-only type, which were mostly used to detect estrous behavior in cattle, to more advanced accelerometers, that can log activity and posture-changing behavior over time to highlight changes in circadian patterns and relation to reproductive state and health. Basic physiological information such as heart rate and respiration rate can be collected using external monitors. However, for more detailed physiology, we need to either implant telemetric devices or implant electrodes and catheters that enable us to then send information remotely or store the information on the animal for later retrieval. Combining collection systems will enable us to examine responses to specific stressors without human influence, greatly refining our data and expanding our knowledge.