The activity level of group-housed broilers decreases as birds grow older. That is one of the conclusions of a study where an ultra-wideband tracking system (UWB) was implemented and validated by Wageningen University & Research (WUR).
Individual birds were fitted with ultra-wideband (UWB) tags on their back, while four receivers in the environment could receive signals from these tags. Using these signals, the position of the animals could be determined and their activity levels could be calculated based on the distances they moved over time.
In this study a moderately strong correlation was observed between the distance recorded on video and the distance recorded using the UWB tracking system. Furthermore, with the UWB tracking system an overall decrease in activity over time was detected and it was found that, on average, lightweight birds were more active compared to heavier birds.
Health, welfare and performance
Overall, when the same system settings are applied for all animals, the UWB tracking system appears well-suited for monitoring individual levels of activity in broilers. Using this system, longitudinal data on individual levels of activity can be collected, which can potentially be used as proxy for health, welfare and performance.
Broilers are often kept in large groups, which makes it difficult to identify individual birds and record their activity levels. That is why the suitability of an UWB tracking system for tracking individual levels of activity of broilers was investigated.
To validate the UWB system two approaches were implemented. First, a comparison of the distances moved as recorded by the UWB system and the distances recorded on video. And second, a study recording individual levels of activity of broilers and assessing group-level trends in activity over time, which could be compared to known activity trends from literature.
This was a joint WUR and Utrecht University (UU) study, in collaboration with Cobb Europe and Breed4Food, and was recently published in the scientific journal Animals.