Validation of automated welfare assessment for poultry

Principal Investigator: Sabine Gebhardt-Henrich
Project Team: Ariane Stratmann (Post-Doc)


Funded as an anihwa ERA-Net project (Animal Health and Welfare, European Research Area)

Patterns and features (mean and kurtosis) of daily movement distributions, called Optical Flow, can predict key welfare outcomes in broilers - mortality, hockburn and lameness - days and even weeks in advance of traditional diagnostic methods. Validated using 35 flocks in the UK, the technique has been shown to even distinguish which flocks are at risk from subsequently testing positive for Campylobacter. Due to substantial differences between Swiss and UK flocks in terms of housing and density, Optical Flow and Campylobacter is tested on 25 Swiss broiler flocks.

The Swiss-based collections also seeks to determine if specific behavioural aspects are being altered at the individual level. Variation in motion within and between flocks is likely to occur due to variation of several factors including: physical health (especially foot and leg health), motivation (e.g. hunger and thirst levels), or because of different levels of fearfulness e.g. during management. Optical Flow does not distinguish between these different causes of variation but understanding how individual behaviour is causally related to Optical Flow patterns is essential if the system is to become widely used. Therefore, the ZTHZ portion of the work will include a comprehensive analysis of the causal relationship between Optical Flow and the behaviour and health of individuals using a wide range of poultry health and behaviour measures.

Consortium: Marian Dawkins (UK), Sabine G. Gebhardt-Henrich (CH ), Isabelle Bouvarel (F), Ivan Rychlik (CZ), Christine Leterrier (F)).