Publications

Social Network Analysis in Farm Animals: Sensor-Based Approaches

Neethirajan, Suresh; Kemp, Bas

Summary

Natural social systems within animal groups are an essential aspect of agricultural optimization and livestock management strategy. Assessing elements of animal behaviour under domesticated conditions in comparison to natural behaviours found in wild settings has the potential to address issues of animal welfare effectively, such as focusing on reproduction and production success. This review discusses and evaluates to what extent social network analysis (SNA) can be incorporated with sensor-based data collection methods, and what impact the results may have concerning welfare assessment and future farm management processes. The effectiveness and critical features of automated sensor-based technologies deployed in farms include tools for measuring animal social group interactions and the monitoring and recording of farm animal behaviour using SNA. Comparative analyses between the quality of sensor-collected data and traditional observational methods provide an enhanced understanding of the behavioural dynamics of farm animals. The effectiveness of sensor-based approaches in data collection for farm animal behaviour measurement offers unique opportunities for social network research. Sensor-enabled data in livestock SNA addresses the biological aspects of animal behaviour via remote real-time data collection, and the results both directly and indirectly influence welfare assessments, and farm management processes. Finally, we conclude with potential implications of SNA on modern animal farming for improvement of animal welfare