Agroecology 4 min

Prediction of the daily nutrient requirements of gestating sows based on sensor data and machine-learning algorithms

New sensors and automatons are being developed in livestock farming, producing large amounts of data which, combined with machine learning methods, can be used to adjust the nutritional intake of pregnant sows on a daily basis.

Published on 23 January 2024

illustration Prediction of the daily nutrient requirements of gestating sows based on sensor data and machine-learning algorithms

Precision feeding is a strategy for supplying an amount and composition of feed that are as close as possible to each animal’s nutrient requirements, with the aim of reducing feed costs and environmental losses. Usually, the nutrient requirements of gestating sows are provided by a nutrition model that requires input data such as sow and herd characteristics, but also an estimation of future farrowing performances. New sensors and automatons, such as automatic feeders and drinkers, have been developed on pig farms over the last decade, and have produced large amounts of data.

This study evaluated machine-learning methods for predicting the daily nutrient requirements of gestating sows, based only on sensor data, according to various configurations of digital farms. The data of 73 gestating sows was recorded using sensors such as electronic feeders and drinker stations, connected weight scales, accelerometers, and cameras. Nine machine-learning algorithms were trained on various dataset scenarios according to different digital farm configurations (one or two sensors), to predict the daily metabolizable energy and standardized ileal digestible lysine requirements for each sow. The prediction results were compared to those predicted by the InraPorc model, a mechanistic model for the precision feeding of gestating sows. The scenario predictions were also evaluated with or without the housing conditions and sow characteristics at artificial insemination usually integrated into the InraPorc model.

Adding housing and sow characteristics to sensor data improved the mean average percentage error by 5.58% for lysine and by 2.22% for energy. The higher correlation coefficient values for lysine (0.99) and for energy (0.95) were obtained for scenarios involving an automatic feeder system (daily duration and number of visits with or without consumption) only. The scenarios including an automatic feeder combined with another sensor gave good performance results. For the scenarios using sow and housing characteristics and automatic feeder only, the root mean square error was lower with gradient tree boosting (0.91 MJ/d for energy and 0.08 g/d for lysine) compared with those obtained using linear regression (2.75 MJ/d and 1.07 g/d).

The results of this study show that the daily nutrient requirements of gestating sows can be predicted accurately using data provided by sensors and machine-learning methods. It paves the way for simpler solutions for precision feeding.




Charlotte Gaillard Scientific contactPhysiology, Environment, and Genetics for the Animal and Livestock Systems



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