Terminology Box (T-BOX)

Algorithm | Blueprint | Gold Standard | Implementable System | Key Indicator | Labelling | Operational System | Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) | Phases in implementing PLF technology in farms | Scoring | Social and economic value measures

An Algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for doing calculations and is used for data processing and automated reasoning. The specific character of algorithms used in biological  processes is that most of done are real-time algorithms due to the fact that the living organisms are time-varying and individually different.

A Blueprint can be defined as a design plan, descriptions of concepts, schemes, technical drawings, plans, protocols, detailed working methods and descriptions that act as a model on how to realise the implementation of PLF-technologies in farms and how to create added value with it. The EU-PLF Blueprint will be a manual/tool kit for livestock stakeholders who want to implement PLF.

A Gold Standard represents the validity check. It is the reference value or the best truth to check whether the key indicator indeed is a good measure for the aimed status variable. The gold standard for health status can be blood analysis to detect whether the animal is really infected or not. The gold standard must be accurate and might require high labour costs and consequently cannot be determined continuously since this would be too expensive. (See also “scoring”).

An Implementable System is a well-defined system with all technical specifications that allow measuring animal key indicators at farm level such as camera systems or the sound monitoring systems. Another example of an implementable system is an iPhone. The iPhone becomes an operational system if you have registered it, downloaded the software and paid your operator). (See also Operational System).

A Key Indicator in this proposal is a variable that gives quantitative information over the state or level of the welfare, health, environmental load or productivity of a farm. In this proposal a key indicator can finally be gathered automatically and continuously by PLF technologies through sensors (image analysis, sound analysis or sensors) directly at animal level or in its environment (e.g. gas emissions). The key indicators measures how well the farm performs in the four domains: welfare, health, productivity and environmental load. For example the animal based key indicator “number of coughs” can be a measure for the health status of pigs.

Labelling is analysing the collected bio responses or bio signals and marking them for each sample value (for example each image out of 25 images per second) to develop and validate the algorithms that allow to measure the bio response in an automated way. An example of labelling is analysing all the measured sound produced by pigs and identifying the coughing data to determine at which exact moment in time and for how long the produced sound is indeed a cough. (See also Scoring).

An Operational System is a working system at farm level that is collecting the data and runs algorithms to calculate the key indicator from collected data. Such system has a good user interface so that the farmer can work with it and is integrated with other systems (farm manager, protected stable power supply, internet, data storage, auto-restart after power failure, etc.) in the farm to allow exchange of data. (See also Implementable System).

Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) can be defined as “intelligent management and care of (individual) animals in livestock farming by continuous automated monitoring/controlling of the production/reproduction, health and welfare of (individual) animals, thereby allowing quick corrections when deviations from normal are monitored.”

Phases in implementing PLF technology in farms: Recent tests in different farms show that the implementation of PLF technology at farm level requires at least three different phases. First, the PLF technology must be made technically operational at the farm and this in a reliable way without technical shortcomings or failures. As soon as the system is fully technically reliable the explanations to the farmer can start and he can get familiar with the system. The third phase is when the farmer starts to explore the system and starts using it to interpret the data and takes actions based on them.

Scoring is the activity of applying the gold standard. For example, a veterinarian visiting a farm and taking blood analysis of the animals to check the health status of pigs. (See also Gold Standard).

Social and economic value measures are quantitative measures for the economic value created by the farmer such as the economic output generated at the end of a fattening period as calculated from feed conversion, growth rate, mortality and medical costs at farm level and product quality as given by the slaughtering house. Social values can be investigated by inquiries. Socio-cultural sustainable development of animal farming systems is also defined by general public perceptions including concern about, and underlying meanings of animal farming (Boogard, 2009).

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