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Data Gathered Using AI at Slaughter Offers Insight into Animal Welfare on the Farm

A researcher with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine says information gathered at the abattoir through the use of artificial intelligence can be used by the producer to improve animal welfare management back on the farm.

Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Saskatchewan's Department of Computer Engineering, in partnership with 14 industry partners with support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, have developed a computer based automated system through which skin lesions on the carcasses are documented and assessed at slaughter.

Dr. Martyna Lagoda, a Post-doctoral Fellow Swine Behavior and Welfare with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says AI technology is becoming more widespread and can be used to track animal welfare.

Quote-Dr. Martyna Lagoda-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:

Measuring these indicators can really give an accurate insight into the experiences of the animal as it passes through the production system therefore reflecting their welfare. For example, skin lesions are one of the animal-based indicators we use to measure welfare retrospectively and these inform on the level of aggression the pig was involved in throughout its life.

If the lesions visible on the carcass at slaughter are fresh, we can infer that this pig was involved in aggression shortly before slaughter, likely during transport and then, if the lesions are older and scabs have already formed, we can tell based on this that the aggression likely happened when the animal was still on the farm.

We can also use animal-based indicators to inform on the effectiveness of management practices on farm. For example, by looking at tail lengths at the time of slaughter, we can say something about tail docking practices on farm and this is a strategy used to curb the risk of tail biting.

We can look at this indicator in relation to tail bite lesions for example and, based on their presence or absence, provide feedback on whether tail docking is an effective tool against tail biting or not and we can advise producers whether perhaps additional management is needed to curb the risk of tail biting.

Dr. Lagoda says these indicators tell a story of welfare retrospectively and can be tracked back to different stages of the production chain.
Information on this research can be accessed at swinewelfare.com.

Source : Farmscape.ca

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