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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Mississippi State, Mississippi » Poultry Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320447

Title: Automation in Animal Housing and Production

item Purswell, Joseph - Jody
item GATES, R - University Of Illinois

Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural Education
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/27/2012
Publication Date: 3/26/2013
Citation: Purswell, J.L., Gates, R.S. 2013. Automation in Animal Housing and Production pp.205-230. In Q. Zhang and F.J. Pierce (eds.) Agricultural Automation: Fundamentals and Practices, CRC Press, 411pp.

Interpretive Summary: Automation in animal production has traditionally been limited to environmental control and processing of harvested material. The ability to measure, monitor, and integrate animal responses has expanded tremendously in recent years, but has been limited in application in production operations due to limited decision tools and cost. The costs of microprocessors and sensors have been dramatically reduced, though not to levels which encourage use in production operations. With ever improving genetic potential, animal production operations should adopt automated management systems on a larger scale than currently used to enhance production efficiency as energy and feed prices rise.

Technical Abstract: Intensive, controlled environment animal production began modestly in the mid-20th century as poultry were brought indoors. While mankind had utilized structures to provide shelter for their animals for centuries, the availability of relatively inexpensive energy and the electrification of rural areas allowed for the control of interior environment temperature during cold weather and means of providing airflow during warm weather. Laying hen cages were developed to reduce impact of predation and disease, to better control bird diet and access to feed, and to enable more reliable egg collection. Similarly, broiler chickens were brought indoors to provide a more uniform and beneficial environment and enhanced production efficiency. This trend evolved to include all main meat bird species (turkeys, ducks) and was rapidly embraced by the pig industry. This revolution in the way animals were raised created a need for engineered buildings and systems for providing the necessary environment and the support infrastructure for feed storage and delivery, water quality control, supply and distribution, artificial lighting and enhanced environment control across a broad expanse of climatic zones. The economic advantages achieved from increased production efficiency sparked a new market system, the vertically integrated animal feeding operation (AFO), and was pioneered by a few individuals first in the broiler chicken industry. This evolved rapidly, and within a generation the majority of U.S. meat bird production has become dominated by so-called integrator companies. Mechanization of production components, including feed and water distribution, animal handling and environment control was a key characteristic of this new production method. Automation, however, has only slowly been adopted and in only particular niches of the modern animal production system supply chain. In this article, the main features of automation and control in modern intensive livestock and poultry production are covered.