By Ali Jones
QR codes on milk cartons could be used to provide consumers with detailed information on the care and well-being of farm animals reared as livestock.
A simple QR code printed on the packaging could mean a carton of milk might one day offer a window onto the health and welfare of the cows that produced it. It would enable consumers to trace their milk to its farm of origin and access data on the well-being of its cows on that particular day.
Thanks to electronic monitoring tools known as Precision Livestock Farming (PLF), this level of detail could all be available to consumers. The technology is already on the market but its full potential has yet to be realized.
The ClearFarm project is advancing the use of PLF technology with the aim of creating a more sensitive, continuous and complete way of understanding animal welfare. It is bringing together producers, regulators, policy makers and consumers from six countries.
Focusing on pig and dairy cattle, the dominant livestock farmed in Europe, ClearFarm is partnering with a number of technology companies to create a new software platform that will fully exploit the possibilities of PLF to monitor lifelong animal welfare.
"So far, certification schemes for animal welfare have based decisions on single visits to a farm, maybe once or twice a year, so information is pretty limited," said Dr. Pol Llonch, Technical Project Manager for ClearFarm based at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).
"ClearFarm will be the first platform to provide non-stop, real-time information on animal welfare. Consumers and producers will be able to view information from every single animal on the farm, every single day of the year."
Wearable sensors will continually collect information, including data on activity, eating patterns, and health, enabling the farmer to monitor their animals when they cannot be with them. Farmers can spot health and welfare issues early and take action as appropriate.
As well as a steady flow of information, ClearFarm will integrate the many different recognized 'domains' of animal welfare—health, nutrition, comfort, emotional state and natural behavior. It will combine all of this to give what Llonch describes as "an unprecedented, comprehensive picture of animal welfare."Click here to see more...