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1. WO2020165587 - PROCÉDÉS ET APPAREILS POUR L'ÉLEVAGE DU BÉTAIL

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Claims

1. A method of determining one or more welfare parameters of animals, the method comprising providing:

a livestock enclosure; and

a plurality of sensors arranged to make measurements in the livestock enclosure;

the method further comprising determining one or more welfare parameters from the measurements made by the plurality of sensors.

2. A method according to claim 1 , wherein the method comprises outputting a determined welfare parameter.

3. A method according to claim 2, wherein the method comprises measuring one or more welfare parameters of the animals using the one or more sensors.

4. A method according to any one preceding claim, wherein the plurality of sensors comprises one or more audio sensors to detect sounds made by individual animals or groups of animals and the method comprises determining one or more stress parameters by calculating the spectral entropy of sound measured by one or more audio sensors.

5. A method according to any one preceding claim, comprising calculating a parameter related to the number of distress calls from the one or more animals, optionally calculating parameters concerning each of acute distress calls and chronic distress calls.

6. A method according to any one preceding claim, wherein the welfare parameters (e.g. stress parameters) of the animals are calculated taking into account previous measurements of sounds made by the same or different animals using the sensors, for example measurements of the frequency of distress calls at an earlier point in the life of the animals.

7. A method according to any one preceding claim, comprising detecting changes in the volume and pitch of vocalisations made by the animals, to calculate welfare parameters (e.g. stress, activity or health parameters) amongst the animals in the livestock enclosure, optionally comprise processing the frequency spectrum of sounds measured by one or more audio sensors and calculating one or more of: a kurtosis parameter, a skewness parameter, an acoustic complexity parameter, a mean frequency, or standard deviation of the frequency of the acoustic signal from one or more audio sensors.

8 A method according to any one preceding claim comprising the step of processing data from one or more thermal imaging sensors to determine the comb temperature of chickens and relating this to a welfare parameter of the chickens.

9 A method according to any one preceding claim comprising processing data from one or more optical sensors to determine one or more livestock distribution parameters in the livestock enclosure and using the one or more livestock distribution parameters when determining one or more welfare parameters.

10 A method according to any one preceding claim comprising processing measurements from the one or more sensors taking into account the age of animals in the enclosure, or relative to a reference time, for example the start of rearing a batch of animals in the livestock enclosure.

1 1 A method according to any one preceding claim comprising determining welfare parameters, e.g. stress parameters, early in the life of animals, using measurements made by the sensors, and taking this into account in subsequent control of the output devices and/or when processing subsequent measurements made by the sensors to determine welfare parameters.

12 A method according to any one preceding claim, wherein the animals are chickens and the method may comprise detecting levels of stress in the animals in the livestock enclosure during their third, fourth or fifth day since hatching or placement in the livestock enclosure.

13 A method according to any one preceding claim, wherein one or more welfare parameters are measured during the rearing of a first group of animals in the livestock enclosure and environmental parameters, including the variation with time of environmental parameters, are varied during the subsequent rearing of a second group of animals in the same or another livestock enclosure.

14. A method of regulating livestock rearing apparatus, the method comprising providing:

a livestock enclosure,

a plurality of sensors arranged to make measurements in the livestock enclosure; and

a plurality of output devices which control environmental parameters within the livestock enclosure;

the method further comprising determining one or more welfare parameters from the measurements made by the plurality of sensors, by the method of any one preceding claim, and controlling the output from the plurality of output devices in dependence on the determined one or more welfare parameters.

15. A method according to claim 14, wherein in response to the measurements made using the one or more sensors, the output from the one or more output devices is regulated, and varied over time.

16. A method according to claim 14 or claim 15, wherein at least some of the output devices are lights and the outputs which are changed include the wavelength and/or intensity of light output by the lights.

17. A method according to any one of claims 14 to 16, wherein one or more of the output devices is a sound generator, such as a loudspeaker, configured to direct sound at animals within the enclosure, wherein one or more sound generators are controlled to output animal vocalisations indicative of animal pleasure or distress.

18. A method according to claim 17, wherein the animal vocalisations are generated when the animals are at predetermined ages or in response to measured welfare parameters, to regulate the welfare of animals in the animal enclosure.

19. A method according to any one of claims 14 to 18, wherein animal vocalisations recorded by the one or more audio sensors are processed and used to regulate the output of animal vocalisations in real time or to a subsequent group of animals.

20 A method according to any one of claims 14 to 19, wherein machine learning is employed to correlate welfare parameters determined from measurements from the one or more sensors, and interventions, which may be carried out by varying the output of the one or more output devices, or by stockpeople in response to data output through a user interface, to thereby optimise animal welfare and/or growth during the rearing of an individual group of animals, or during future rearing of a new group of animals in the same or another livestock enclosure.

21 A method according to any one of claims 14 to 20, wherein the method comprise analysing weight gain of one or more of the animals in the livestock enclosure, for example a measurement of the weight of the animals at the end of a growing cycle, and taking this into account when determining environmental parameters, or the relationship between outputs through the output devices in response to measurement using the sensors during subsequent growing cycles.

22. A method according to any one of claims 14 to 21 , comprising regulating the output of the one or more output devices to reduce stress on the animals within the animal enclosure, e.g. responsive to a calculated welfare parameter (e.g. a stress parameter, such as frequency of distress calls) meeting one or more criteria.

23. A method according to any one of claims 14 to 22, comprising regulating the frequency spectrum of light output through one or more lights or to change the temperature in the animal enclosure to reduce animal stress, responsive to measurements of one or more animal stress parameters made using the sensors.

24. A method according to claim 23, comprising increasing blue light levels, or the ratio of blue light to red and green light to reduce stress responsive to measurements of one or more animal stress parameters made using the sensors.

25. A method according to any one preceding claim, comprising predicting next- day mortality amongst the animals in the livestock enclosure and/or correlating preventative actions and their subsequent effect on next-day mortality.

26. A method according to any one preceding claim wherein the animals are chickens.

27. Livestock rearing apparatus comprising:

a livestock enclosure;

a controller;

a plurality of sensors arranged to make measurements in the livestock enclosure;

wherein the sensors are in electronic communication with the controller, and wherein the controller is configured to calculate one or more welfare parameters of the animals using measurements made by the one or more sensors by the method of any one preceding claim.

28. Livestock rearing apparatus comprising:

a livestock enclosure;

a controller;

a plurality of sensors arranged to make measurements in the livestock enclosure;

a plurality of output devices arranged to control environmental parameters within the livestock enclosure;

wherein the sensors and output devices are in electronic communication with the controller and the controller is configured to control the output from the plurality of output devices in dependence on the measurements made by the plurality of sensors.

29. Livestock rearing apparatus according to claim 28, wherein the controller comprises a local controller in electronic communication with the plurality of output devices and the plurality of sensors.

30. Livestock rearing apparatus according to claim 28 or claim 29, wherein the controller is configured to process measurements of the animals made by the one or more sensors to determine welfare (e.g. stress) parameters of the animals.

Livestock rearing apparatus according to claim 30, wherein the plurality of sensors comprises one or more audio sensors and the controller is configured to process audio signals from the one or more audio sensors to detect sounds made by individual animals or groups of animals to determine one or more welfare parameters of animals in the enclosure.

32. Livestock rearing apparatus according to claim 31 , wherein the one or more audio sensors are located between 0.5 and 1.5m above the floor of the animal enclosure and spaced between drinkers and feeders.

33. Livestock rearing apparatus according to any one of claims 27 to 32 wherein the one or more sensors comprise thermal imaging camera and data from the thermal imaging sensors is processed to determine the temperature of the comb of one or more chickens and so to calculate a welfare parameter of the chickens.

34. A data storage medium storing computer program instructions which when executed by the controller of livestock rearing apparatus according to any one of claims 27 to 33, cause the livestock rearing apparatus to carry out the method of any of claims 1 to 26.