Digitalization and robotics in livestock production were key topics at EuroTier 2022, where know-how from the areas of breeding, feeding and husbandry were showcased at the trade fairgrounds in Hanover, Germany.
When assessing the value of new technology and innovation for the European livestock industry, animal welfare, farm labor and sustainability were among the main focus.
Around 1,700 companies from 55 countries attended the 2022 event, exhibiting a complete range of products and services for modern animal husbandry, including the solutions for the challenges of the future. In numerous expert presentations and panels taking place over the four days of the exhibition, the latest findings and solutions were discussed. The organizer of the trade fair and its technical program is the DLG (German Agricultural Society).
The German Association of Practicing Veterinarians (bpt) also hosted its annual congress in parallel with EuroTier 2022, creating the opportunity for international veterinarians and farmers to share experiences and exchange opinions on animal health and welfare.
The presentation of the trends shows that the national and international companies within the animal production industry remain exceedingly innovative and are launching products for sustainable animal production onto the market, says Heinz Brenhardt, EuroTier Innovations Committee; Chair of Agricultural Systems Engineering, Technical University of Munich.
Digitalization takes main stage
In the area of digitalization, sensor systems capable of monitoring animal-related parameters, such as feed consumption or the state of health of cattle, were featured. Monitoring by means of pedometers or rumination sensors not only offers information for proactive and customized health management, but it also provides insights concerning the fertility and well-being of dairy cows and fattening cattle as well as calves for rearing and young stock.
In tandem with a microphone-based system, for instance, coughing noises can be used to draw conclusions regarding the state of health and to detect diseases before they become apparent.
The digital collection and documentation of health data in the barn additionally provide information on how zoonoses can be prevented or contained. It was stated that around 60% of human infectious diseases originate from animals; 75% of newly emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses.
One health approach
During EuroTier, farmers and livestock breeders had the opportunity to discuss the numerous aspects of successfully implementing the one health concept.
Sebastian Sterk of Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, for instance, presented on the ‘Minimizing antibiotics in poultry production’ project being conducted there. The aim is to bundle existing knowledge concerning alternative prophylaxis measures and to test innovative approaches in practice. In this process, tests are conducted to ascertain whether the occurrence of bacterial infectious diseases and the related use of antibiotics in chicken and turkey fattening as well as laying hen husbandry can be minimized with the aid of feed additives, bedding additives and supplementary feedingstuffs based on natural substances. The focus is on generally strengthening the animals’ resilience.
New boost to sustainable livestock management
Much discussion was had on sustainable livestock production. While the road to healthier livestock is akin to a complex puzzle, to solve it an increasing number of companies are offering individual-animal sensor systems for health monitoring that support farmers and breeders in their work procedures. In parallel, new molecular biological methods are making their way into animal breeding. The latest findings concerning genetic relationships enable the breeding of more robust livestock and the improvement of management systems such that they counteract the occurrence of diseases.
Trends in farm inputs and technology
This year, two major trends could be discerned in the area of farm inputs. Firstly, there was again a focus on optimum health care for the animals. Value here is attached to the targeted, individual supply of the animals with the required nutrients and data-based early recognition of supply disturbances. At the same time, an attempt is underway to reduce the animals’ environmental impacts through appropriate feeding systems.
Reducing the workload remains the objective in the area of farm technology. This ranges from work in the barn to the evolution of livestock fence systems that enable new challenges posed by wild animals to be faced such that labor is also optimized.
Trends in cattle farming
The trends in cattle farming are continuing to focus on animal welfare. The data-based linking of various process steps will enable deeper evaluation of the data, thus tailoring decision support systems even more extensively to individual animals. The continuing trend in process management is the automation of an increasing number of process steps. This ranges from the automatic cleaning and restarting of mobile calf drinkers to cleaning systems for mini-milking systems. This, therefore, ensures process reliability and thus also sustainability. In all areas, it is becoming clear that the farmer’s role is evolving from that of a laborer to that of a manager and that time is being freed up for company management.
The trend that has been seen in recent years of specifically removing animal excretions from the barn in order to reduce environmental impacts continues to be reflected in the housing systems. This ranges from screen systems for open barns to collecting robots.
Significant innovations toward animal welfare can still be seen even in the more classic area of milking technology or cubicle dividers. It was said that this clearly shows that the industry is continuing to rethink even existing systems to come up with new possibilities.
Trends in poultry farming and other livestock
The trends in poultry farming are shifting in the direction of increasing animal welfare and reducing environmental pollution. Optimized littering systems that can meet these objectives were on display at EuroTier 2022.
As consumer demand changes, new animal species are also being pondered for production. This trend is indicated, for example, by feeding systems for insects. New approaches are therefore constantly emerging for agricultural animal production.