“Precision Livestock Farming cannot and will not replace the farmer, but it surely helps him, making his work more efficient and more rewarding”. This statement was a common motif throughout the workshop organised by the EU-PLF project in Milan in September. Farmers participating in the project gave their testimony on the benefits from the Precision Livestock Farming tools that are installed in their farms.
David Speller runs a broiler farm in the UK and helps a dozen other broiler farmers to manage their facilities. “eYeNamic, camera technology, was installed in 2010 in my farm and I upgraded it in 2015. Good, continuous, monitoring allows good animal health to be maintained. Since I use the technology, I make 8.6 p. more per week per square meter which amounts to a total of 39 000 pounds (51 000 euros) per year,” states David. “But the technology does not do everything by itself. Precision Livestock Farming requires some of the farmer’s time to monitor, evaluate and change practises if necessary. It will not make you money if you don’t utilise the data ideally daily”.
John Verhoijsen runs a pig farm in the Netherlands. “I use the eYeNamic, the Eye Scan and the Pig Cough Monitor. eYeNamic monitors the behaviour of my animals. When they are restless, the system warns me that I have to go and see what’s going wrong. The Cough Monitor informs me a couple of days in advance that some animals are going to have serious respiratory disorders if nothing is done. I can then treat them before they get really sick and spread their disease to the rest of the animals in the building. With the Eyescan I can assess the weight of my pigs continuously and identify the best moment to sell them. PLF [will] bring my farm to a higher level via better technical results, more profit and more satisfaction in my work”.
Tina Dahl and her son Fredrik run a dairy farm in Sweden. Says Tina, “When my son stated that he wanted to be a dairy farmer, we built a new barn equipped with a milking robot and the CowView system. We use CowView mostly to find cows late for milking, detect cows in heat, find cows with low activity and supervise behaviour that are different from normal.”
There is still some way to go in the development of PLF tools for the farms. Farmers stated that they are still facing challenges in using and understanding all the data coming from the various systems installed in their facilities. For the farmer, it would be more helpful to have an integrated system, where a single interface could be used and information presented in a simpler way. This way they can grasp more quickly what is really important. Farmers also mentioned that they needed additional support to train the farm staff and adapt the tools to the peculiarities of their farm.
In summary, the farmers agreed that a large part of the advantages of Precision Livestock Farming tools is that they draw the farmer’s attention to those animals that require special care. Farmers also agreed that they do not spend less time with their animals but rather that it is used more efficiently.