Invited: Non-invasive sensing of livestock health parameters

Wednesday, 8 October 2014: 10:00
Sunrise, 2nd Floor, Galactic Ballroom 8 (Moon Palace Resort)


Development of the livestock sector at EU and global level is challenging as it puts pressure on the environment as well as animal welfare.  Livestock production accounts for over 40% of the overall EU agricultural output – in 2011 EU-27 farmers raised livestock with a total value of €154 billion .  Products derived particularly from beef cattle, dairy cattle and small ruminants (i.e. sheep and goats) typically require farmers to graze their animals on grasslands to provide the necessary nutrition for sustainable productivity.  For farmers to maintain sustainable livestock production, they must ensure that both livestock and their grazing environments are well managed.  This is by no means a trivial task given that animals may be spread over large areas depending on the grazing system employed and geographical location, in addition to a farmer potentially owning many hundreds of animals.  Currently farmers have no means to, remotely and in real-time, determine the location, condition and activity of their livestock and control (e.g. movement) of animals is still largely a manual process.  The authors are seeking to address all of these issues through the development of a smart integrated sensor system; this paper focuses on one aspect of this system, namely the determination of animal health.  A non-invasive electromagnetic wave sensor has been developed for in-situ determination of blood lactate concentration in dairy cows as a rapid indicator health status.  It has been tested currently in the laboratory environment, and has been shown to deliver sensitivity to < 1 mmol-1 changes in lactate level over a range of concentrations (0-64 mmol-1) in defibrininated bovine blood through approx. 15mm of cow hide.  The further development of this work will undoubtedly bring a step-change in the welfare of livestock across the sector, in addition to helping farmers maintain sustainable output to meet ever increasing pressures to produce.