EU-PLF meets its farmers

On 26 of August, the partners of the EU-PLF project met with ten farmers who are currently using PLF technology on their farms. The meeting allowed the project partners to have a better understanding of the needs and expectations of the farmers and where the equipment and tools could be improved. It was an invaluable interaction for the partners of the project.

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David Speller

David Speller

The meeting was led-off by a presentation by one of the farmers in the UK, David Speller, who uses equipment and technology provided by Fancom. David bought a 1960’s broiler chicken farm in 2004 and when in the earlier years he had to renovate due to some difficulties, David chose to completely redo the barns, even fitting them with a heated floor. Nowadays, David takes care of over 180.000 chickens in four houses. Efficiency/productivity and the welfare of his birds were the most important reasons for the initial investment in PLF. David strongly believes that technology can significantly improve animal welfare as well as return on investment. In 2009, he was named the ‘Poultry Farmer of the year’.

After David’s presentation, each farmer met with different partners of the project to have a frank discussion about PLF and what it meant to them. When asked if animal welfare was important in their choice to use PLF, Tina Dahl answered, “You take care of your animals and they will take care of you.”

Tina Dahl, “You take care of your animals and they will take care of you.”

Tina Dahl, “You take care of your animals and they will take care of you.”

The meeting with farmers came after a day of a Joint EU-PLF/EAAP scientific sessions held at the EAAP Annual Meeting held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The EAAP meeting brought together over 1000 scientists from 60 countries. This allowed EU-PLF to share projects results to a wide audience but also articulate how PLF can help in the area of animal welfare, animal health and production as well as the management of farms.

Initially the Joint Session had been envisioned for one session dedicated to PLF but after receiving numerous great abstracts for the topic, it was given a full-day, including parallel sessions. Over 110 scientists from around the world attended the opening session chaired by Ilan Halachmi. The project coordinator Daniel Berckmans and Jeffrey Bewley were the keynote speakers: addressing the European and American perspective (respectively) towards the adoption of PLF. Research presented, of which only four were from EU-PLF project partners, were being conducted in countries of Europe, Israel and the USA which clearly indicated the popularity and relevance of PLF in the field of animal science around the world.

“Having a panel discussion at the end of each session is an unusual structure in the EAAP conferences. Usually a more ‘debate’ like structure is used with specific predefined themes. Thanks to the flexibility of the organizers mainly Marija Klopcic (President, EAAP Cattle Commission) and Mike Jacobs (Wageningen Academic Publishers), the panel discussions were introduced at the end of each session. By including these, I was hoping to get fruitful discussions between us, the PLF scientists, and the “animal scientists” that usually participate in the EAAP conferences. At the end of the day, quite a few people expressed their satisfaction and the attendance was relatively high,” stated Ilan Halachmi, chair of the Joint Session.

Example of dirt on camera lenses resulting in poor image quality a 'challenge' identified by Dries Berckmans during his presentation.

Example of dirt on camera lenses resulting in poor image quality was a ‘challenge’ identified by Dries Berckmans during his presentation.

In session 5b of the Joint Session, one of the EU-PLF participants, Heiner Lehr, presented the first year results of the project on coaching and developing entrepreneurship in the field of PLF in a paper titled “Developing SmartFarming entrepreneurship – first year results EU-PLF”. In the same session, Dries Berckmans, presented a paper titled “Practical problems associated with large scale deployment of PLF technologies on commercial farms”. The paper focused on the main issues that were identified as well as solutions developed during the installation, use and maintenance of the following equipment: SoundTalk’s Cough-monitor, Fancom’s eYeNamic, PLF Agritech’s Weight-DetectTM, PLF Agritech’s Feed-DetectTM and PLF Agritech’s Enviro-DetectTM.

The camera system showing bird distribution such as in the image could help in complying with the Boiler Directive.

The camera system showing bird distribution such as in the image could help in complying with the Boiler Directive.

Another project participant, Andy Butterworth gave a presentation in Session 11a on the potential role of automated chicken monitoring in complying with Council Directive 2007/43/EC which in 2007 set guidelines and standards for the welfare of broiler chickens for meat production titled “Facilitation of assessment of technical measures in implementing the Broiler Directive (2007/43/EC)”. While Martijn Hemeryck presented “Three clinical field trials with the Pig Cough Monitor: an overview”. This paper concluded that the Pig Cough Monitor (PCM) brings real added value and has huge potential as an early warning system for the respiratory health of pigs. Thus refocusing again on the role of PLF technology in increasing the overall welfare and health of animals in the livestock sector.

The proceedings of the meeting with the 10 farmers will be published by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in December 2014.

The proceedings from the Joint EAAP/EU-PLF sessions of the EAAP Annual Meeting in Copenhagen will be published in March 2015 by Wageningen Academic Publishers.

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