Livestock Research: Tracking sheep to learn their behavior
Bhaa Bhaa now time to eat! There is still a lot to learn about the behavioral and social patterns in sheep. The more we know about them, the better we can improve the health and welfare of these livestock animals. We recently installed TrackLab at Aberystwyth University in Wales, UK, for the tracking and detailed analysis of the spatial behavior of sheep.
TrackLab is the system designed for the recognition and detailed analysis of spatial behavior. The software tracks animal movements and can help researchers analyze and understand their behavior and social interaction patterns. Researchers can gain insights such as where the animals prefer to be, if they are walking, running, standing still or lying down and how these animals transition between areas. Analysis and statistics can be collected for the whole research area or for specific zones such as by the feeder. Collecting these patterns and activity can all be done automatically with TrackLab, which uses Ultra-Wideband (UWB) sensors and tags for precise location tracking.
TrackLab for Livestock Research at Aberystwyth University
Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), recently chose TrackLab to help them understand more clearly the behavioral patterns and activity of sheep, within the scope of the small ruminant phenotyping platform integrated in the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), one of the UK’s four Agri-Tech Centres.
They seek to examine sheep exploratory behaviours (distance walked, speed,…), location (animal dispersion within the pen, where they tend to rest and ruminate), and eating and drinking pattern (time spent at the feed bunk and drinker stations, at what time of the day,…), etc. The researchers also hope to get more information on social interactions, sheep’s temperament and affective state under different scenarios.
The whole system uses time stamped x, y, and z coordinates. The x and y pinpoints the location of a sheep in the pen. With the z coordinate, the height of the tag is measured, which is on the top back of a sheep, and from this it’s possible to derive if a sheep is standing or lying down.
This installation process was a simple setup that took 2 days. The first day was the hardware installation that included cabling and positioning the sensors at the right angles. The tuning of the system took another day. Tuning is the necessary step to calibrate the tracking equipment with the software to get accurate tracking data. Around 15 cm accuracy was achieved!
A group of researchers received explanation on how to use the system and training in the TrackLab software for their behavioral research and analysis.
The installation of TrackLab was a success at the Aberystwyth University and the whole team present for the installation were pleased with the accuracy and the possibilities of the system.
Look out for our upcoming release of TrackLab 2.0!