AI to improve animal welfare in livestock farming

Created by Isabel Haberkorn | |   News

Innovative project "VerZi" launched for behaviour monitoring of dairy goats

A new project to improve animal welfare and health in farm animal husbandry has started: The project "VerZi - Automated Behavioural Assessment in Dairy Goats" aims to improve animal welfare and health in farm animal husbandry through automated herd monitoring using artificial intelligence (AI). 
This will provide farmers with an effective tool to objectively assess changes in animal behaviour as a result of management measures. The technology is being developed under the coordination of Dr Christian Manteuffel from the Research Institute of Farm Animal Biology (FBN) in collaboration with the University of Bremen, Justus Liebig University Giessen, ACARiS GmbH Hamburg and vit w.V. Verden.

More safety in the stable for animals and people
In agriculture, keeping farm animals in groups is associated with various challenges. "Horned goats in particular have an increased risk of injury," explains Dr Christian Manteuffel, head of the Smart Lifestock Farming service group at FBN. "This affects both the animals and the people who work with them. To reduce this risk and improve animal welfare, an innovative herd monitoring procedure is being developed in the "VerZi" project." 
This automated solution uses AI technologies to detect conspicuous animal behaviour with the help of cameras in the barn. For this purpose, the existing herd management software OVICAP is extended and connected to the AI solution STABLE GUARD from ACARiS GmbH. The behaviour of the animals is assigned to the different areas in the barn in order to make statements about the frequency of certain behaviours in different areas and to detect changes. In particular, aggressive interactions such as head butting or chasing inferior animals are recorded. Threatening behaviour and changes in activity are also taken into account.

Recognising behaviour more easily and intervening more quickly - for better housing conditions in practice
The detected behavioural abnormalities are documented by cameras in the barn so that farmers can more easily identify causes in case of problematic behaviour.
"The planned system offers farmers the opportunity for the first time to measure the effectiveness of their measures to improve animal welfare and to make housing conditions comparable," explains Dr Christian Manteuffel. To ensure the practicality of the AI solution, contact with farmers and goat keepers is already being sought during the project period. The system will be tested for three years in cooperation with livestock farmers and then further developed into a product by the participating companies. 

The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) based on a resolution of the German Bundestag. The Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung, BLE) is responsible for the project as part of the programme to promote innovation.