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Measuring liveweight changes in lactating dairy ewes with an automated walk-over-weighing system

Abstract : Monitoring liveweight (LW) is an important part of sound management practices at the individual and flock level (e.g., controlling for nutritional status based on body condition, reproduction, and health-related issues), but it is time consuming and stressful. To our knowledge, no literature has reported on the evaluation of automated weighing systems in dairy sheep as an alternative to conventional static scales. The objective of this research was to evaluate the practical feasibil-ity of using an automated walk-over-weighing (WoW) prototype to measure daily LW changes in dairy ewes without human intervention. We used adult Lacaune dairy ewes in 2 complementary trials conducted indoors. Trial 1 aimed at evaluating the repeatability, precision, and accuracy of LW measures recorded using WoW scales compared with a static scale (the gold standard). Forty-two adult ewes (LW +/- standard deviation = 71.3 +/- 10.4 kg) were randomly drafted from the main flock and used in a 1-day session. The trial included 3 pas-sages. In each passage, ewes were weighed first on a static scale; once a static position was achieved and LW recorded, they continued the circuit and immediately traversed the WoW scale for an automated LW record. Trial 2 aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of using the WoW device under real-world conditions in a dairy sheep-farming system. The WoW scale was installed in the exit race of the milking parlor and evaluated over 7 wk with adult ewes in mid lactation (n = 93; LW 78.5 +/- 8.1 kg). Once the ewes were acclimated to the WoW system, 1 group of ewes (n = 48) continued to receive the same feeding regimen (controls), and the other group (n = 45) underwent a nutritional challenge [chal-lenged; 2 wk of undernutrition and then back to control regimen (refeeding) for 1 wk]. We evaluated the ability of the WoW to detect small changes in LW. We col-lected LW data (2 weighings per ewe per day) from the WoW after each of the 2 milking sessions (morning and evening). We also obtained LW values by weighing the ewes using a static scale once a week. The automated WoW system showed substantial agreement with the gold standard when assessed using Lin & rsquo;s concordance correlation coefficient and Bland and Altman & rsquo;s method, largely due to high repeatability. The WoW system was adequate for detecting small daily variations in LW during undernutrition and refeeding periods. Mis-behaviors resulted in spurious WoW values in trial 2, requiring us to use filtration methods to exclude outlier weights and allow meaningful assessment of small LW changes. The WoW system evaluated here is an alter-native to the static scales conventionally used on dairy sheep farms. If sound filtration of raw data is applied, WoW could contribute to the close (daily) monitoring of individual LW without operator intervention (i.e., voluntary weighing) and taking animal welfare into ac-count (i.e., no stress related to the weighing session on static scales).
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-03238259
Contributor : Christelle Raynaud <>
Submitted on : Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 8:40:17 AM
Last modification on : Friday, September 17, 2021 - 4:53:57 PM

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Eliel González García, Moutaz Alhamada, Hugo Nascimento, David Portes, Gaëtan. Bonnafe, et al.. Measuring liveweight changes in lactating dairy ewes with an automated walk-over-weighing system. Journal of Dairy Science, American Dairy Science Association, 2021, 104 (5), pp.5675-5688. ⟨10.3168/jds.2020-19075⟩. ⟨hal-03238259⟩

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