Automated tracking to measure behavioural changes in pigs for health and welfare monitoring

S Matthews, Amy Miller, T Plotz, Ilias Kyriazakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since animals express their internal state through behaviour, changes in said behaviour may be used to detect early signs of problems, such as in animal health. Continuous observation of livestock by farm staff is impractical in a commercial setting to the degree required to detect behavioural changes relevant for early intervention. An automated monitoring system is developed; it automatically tracks pig movement with depth video cameras, and automatically measures standing, feeding, drinking, and locomotor activities from 3D trajectories. Predictions of standing, feeding, and drinking were validated, but not locomotor activities. An artificial, disruptive challenge; i.e., introduction of a novel object, is used to cause reproducible behavioural changes to enable development of a system to detect the changes automatically. Validation of the automated monitoring system with the controlled challenge study provides a reproducible framework for further development of robust early warning systems for pigs. The automated system is practical in commercial settings because it provides continuous monitoring of multiple behaviours, with metrics of behaviours that may be considered more intuitive and have diagnostic validity. The method has the potential to transform how livestock are monitored, directly impact their health and welfare, and address issues in livestock farming, such as antimicrobial use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17582
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2017


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