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Monitoring trough visits of growing-finishing pigs with UHF-RFID

Adrion, Felix, Kapun, Anita, Eckert, Florian, Holland, Eva-Maria, Staiger, Max, Götz, Sven, Gallmann, Eva
Computers and electronics in agriculture 2018 v.144 pp. 144-153
animal behavior, animal health, commercial farms, ear tags, ears, feeding behavior, liquids, monitoring, radio frequency identification, swine
Automatic monitoring of animal feeding behaviour in commercial farms is desirable as it is an important indicator for the well-being and health of animals. Low-frequency and high-frequency radio frequency identification (RFID) systems have been tested for the detection of feeding visits of growing-finishing pigs, but the suitability of ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID for this application has not yet been shown. Therefore, the objective of this study was the validation of a UHF-RFID system, consisting of a reader, antennas and passive transponder ear tags, for the monitoring of visits of growing-finishing pigs at a short trough for liquid feeding. Consequently, (1) two antenna variants (free-form and patch antennas) were tested at different levels of antenna output power, (2) two methods to determine a bout criterion for the creation of trough visits from the RFID registrations were compared, and (3) a comparison of the RFID data with reference data from video observation was carried out. The analysis showed that the reading area exceeded the trough especially in the variants with high output power. Thus, the evaluation of the first and second rate of change of the total daily number and total daily duration of visits led to higher values for the bout criterion (50 s for both antenna variants) than the evaluation of the mean absolute deviation between video and RFID data (20 s for the free-form antenna and 30 s for the patch antennas). The trough visits observed were detected best with the patch antennas at 25 dBm output power and a bout criterion of 30 s with regard to average precision (61.1%), and correlation between the video data and RFID visits (R2 = 0.87 for total number and 0.80 for total duration of visits). The average sensitivity of this variant was 49.7%, specificity 99.0% and accuracy 97.9%. The highest average sensitivity (79.7%) and a good correlation between video data and RFID visits (R2 = 0.78 for total number, 0.56 for total duration of visits with a bout criterion of 50 s) were measured with the free-form antenna at 26 dBm. In conclusion, UHF-RFID can be suitable for the monitoring of trough visits of growing-finishing pigs, but the effect of ear tissue on the performance of the UHF-RFID ear tags should be reduced by further development. In addition, further research should be carried out to evaluate the potential of this technology completely for animal behaviour monitoring.