Presentation Title

Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as a Tool to Measure Animal Welfare Outcomes in Beef Calves

Format of Presentation

Poster to be presented Friday March 31, 2017

Abstract

Standard livestock management procedures (e.g. ear-tagging, branding, castration) can cause pain or stress to animals. To advance research on animal welfare, pain and stress mitigation strategies need to be better assessed under extensive field conditions. We developed a novel method to monitor cow-calf social affiliations by quantifying the proximity between animals using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Using two UAVs equipped with video-capable digital cameras, as well as photogrammetry and image analysis software, we measured the distance between cow-calf pairs. We hypothesized that this distance can be accurately measured by UAVs and has the potential to provide valuable information for studies of animal behavior and welfare. Twelve cow-calf pairs were uniquely identified with the use of penning tags and coloured fabric squares glued to their backs. Aerial videos of the calves held with their dams in a pasture were made over four days using UAVs. Still-images extracted from the UAV-acquired video screenshots were used to produce orthomosaics using Agisoft Photoscan software. An orthomosaic is a large composite image that has been processed to remove lens and perspective distortions in the original images. The orthomosaics captured all of the cows and calves in a single image, from which we measured cow-calf proximity with ImageJ software. Our results show that our method of quantifying cow-calf proximity is both an effective and accurate tool to study animal welfare of beef cattle in the field.

Department

Biological Sciences

Faculty Advisor

John Church

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Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as a Tool to Measure Animal Welfare Outcomes in Beef Calves

Standard livestock management procedures (e.g. ear-tagging, branding, castration) can cause pain or stress to animals. To advance research on animal welfare, pain and stress mitigation strategies need to be better assessed under extensive field conditions. We developed a novel method to monitor cow-calf social affiliations by quantifying the proximity between animals using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Using two UAVs equipped with video-capable digital cameras, as well as photogrammetry and image analysis software, we measured the distance between cow-calf pairs. We hypothesized that this distance can be accurately measured by UAVs and has the potential to provide valuable information for studies of animal behavior and welfare. Twelve cow-calf pairs were uniquely identified with the use of penning tags and coloured fabric squares glued to their backs. Aerial videos of the calves held with their dams in a pasture were made over four days using UAVs. Still-images extracted from the UAV-acquired video screenshots were used to produce orthomosaics using Agisoft Photoscan software. An orthomosaic is a large composite image that has been processed to remove lens and perspective distortions in the original images. The orthomosaics captured all of the cows and calves in a single image, from which we measured cow-calf proximity with ImageJ software. Our results show that our method of quantifying cow-calf proximity is both an effective and accurate tool to study animal welfare of beef cattle in the field.