June 1, 2023


Canadian universities launch research on AI's impact on dairy cattle welfare



A research collaboration between McGill University and the University of Quebec in Montreal aims to explore the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in promoting dairy cattle welfare, Alberta Farmer Express reported.


The newly announced project, called the Research and Innovation Chair in Animal Welfare and Artificial Intelligence (WELL-E), will establish a digital living lab to examine the connection between animal welfare and dairy farms' profitability.

Led by Elsa Vasseur from McGill's Department of Animal Science and Abdoulaye Banire Diallo from UQAM's Department of Computer Science, the initiative seeks to assess how modifications to the cow's physical environment and management can influence welfare and longevity outcomes.


The digital environment will also be explored to enhance the ability of end users to improve the cow's physical and psychological well-being, offering new insights for the sustainable development of the dairy industry.


The research will specifically focus on leveraging AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable early detection of changes in cow welfare and longevity, even before visible signs manifest.


By balancing the demand for enhanced animal welfare with the economic sustainability of dairy farmers, this project aims to bring concrete solutions to optimise the comfort of stalls and contribute to the overall well-being of dairy cattle.


The WELL-E initiative builds upon the previous success of the Industrial Research Chair on Sustainable Life for Dairy Cattle, which received funding from Dairy Farmers of Canada, Lactanet, and Novalait between 2016 and 2021.


Through that initiative, the impacts of first-lactation lameness and mastitis on cow productivity and farm profit were studied using data from 120 Quebec dairy farms.


Elise Gosselin, the managing director of Novalait, expressed gratitude for the application of AI in optimising stall comfort and improving the longevity and well-being of dairy cattle.


The WELL-E initiative includes support from Novalait, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Lactanet, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Les Producteurs de Lait du Québec, as well as federal government entities such as the Science and Engineering Research Council and the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy.


The project will begin with a pilot phase on two research farms in Quebec and Ontario before expanding to a network of over 100 farms across the two provinces, forming a digital living lab focused on the needs of animal and dairy producers.


-      Alberta Farmer Express

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