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Economic assessment of a sound-based precision livestock farming tool (SoundTalks) based on timing of intervention after a dual Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae and PRRS virus seeder challenge in pigs

Introduction

Respiratory disease outbreaks continue to be one of the major problems in modern pig production worldwide impacting productivity, antibiotic usage, and animal welfare.1 SoundTalks, an available Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) technology, continuously records the sounds in pig production facilities and emits early warnings (yellow/red alerts) in the case of respiratory outbreaks. These alerts have enabled triggering earlier caregiver awareness of the onset of respiratory clinical episodes than via caregiver observations alone2. Even though a capability for early warning has been established, further research is needed to more fully understand the economic impact of this sound-based PLF tool for producers. The objective of this study was to evaluate the performance and economic differences resulting from earlier intervention following the onset of a clinically detectable respiratory disease episode as measured by SoundTalks.

Materials and Methods

A total of 1655 11-week-old pigs were equally distributed throughout 72 pens and two rooms of a large research barn (three SoundTalks monitors/room defining three spatial zones covering 12 pens per zone). Treatment groups (G0, G5 and G10) were randomly allocated within the spatial zones/room. Pigs in all three treatment groups received the same treatment. In every pen, three randomly selected seeder pigs were challenged seven days apart with first Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae and then PRRS virus. The number of days to the onset of treatment after the first SoundTalks alerts was defined as follows for each group: day zero (G0), day 5 (G5) and day 10 (G10). Continuous sensor data was registered at both the zone level (i.e. respiratory alarms, temperature) and at the pen level (i.e. water usage, temperature) in addition to other production variables analyzed at the individual pig and pen levels. Linear regression mixed models were used to study the association between the production parameters and treatment groups after controlling for other independent variables. Economic effect differences between treatment groups were calculated using a “Standardized Economic Index” (SEI) based on a partial budget model. The SEI is a function of finished pig performance measures, historical feed ingredient costs and market pig prices and the cost-to-operate (CTO) of the particular technology being evaluated. The pig performance measures utilized in the SEI are average daily gain (ADG), feed conversion rate (FCR), average daily feed (ADF), mortality, and individual pig treatments. Historical monthly market prices and feed ingredient costs were obtained for the most recent 10 year time period (January 2011 through December 2020). In addition to hardware installation costs, a weighted hardware lifespan of 48 months was used for SoundTalks to calculate the depreciation cost for the CTO value. To represent the impact of a more natural (contact) exposure and infection dynamic, performance differences of predefined contact challenged pigs that did not experience exceptional handling (e.g., did not experience snaring, bleeding, tracheal catheterization) were used for the SEI modeling.

Results

After seeder pig challenge, two respiratory outbreaks caused by swine A influenza virus (IAV) were registered throughout the study. Pigs were treated accordingly to study design. Contact challenged pigs from G0 had a 12,7 and 20,4 gram higher ADG compared to those from G5 and G10 respectively. Similarly, contact challenged pigs from G0 had a 23.4% and 10.1% decrease in individual treatments when compared to G5 and G10 respectively. Contact challenged pigs from G0 had a 0.26% higher and 1.22% lower percent mortality compared to those from G5 and G10 respectively. All production variables were introduced into the SEI model and the resulting Benefit:Cost Ratio 10 year time series is shown in Fig 1.

Fig 1. Ten year monthly benefit:cost ratio (green and blue dotted lines) as well as its 48 month rolling average (green and blue lines) for SoundTalks investment based on group differences (Group 0 vs 5 represented as blue lines; and Group 0 vs 10 as green lines) using North American monthly market price and feed costs

Throughout the 120 month period (January 2011 through December 2020), and using a CTO of USD $0.254/pig marketed (inclusive of installation, hardware and software subscription for a single site 4800 head grow- finish site) the mean monthly B:C Ratio was 4.27, ranging from 2.52 to 7.90 and exceeding 2:1 for 120 of 120 (100%) months (G0:G5). For the same 120 month period, the 48 month rolling B:C Ratio ranged from 3.37 to 5.06, exceeded 2:1 for 120 of 120 (100%) intervals (G0:G5).Fig 1. Ten year monthly benefit:cost ratio (green and blue dotted lines) as well as its 48 month rolling average (green and blue lines) for SoundTalks investment based on group differences (Group 0 vs 5 represented as blue lines; and Group 0 vs 10 as green lines) using North American monthly market price and feed costs

Conclusions and Discussion

A 48 month rolling average was used to allow evaluation of the B:C ratio across the estimated lifespan of SoundTalks hardware. This study suggests that there can be a consistently favorable economic impact is achievable where relatively small performance differences are obtained using a technology that enables early detection and intervention.

References

  1. Lopes Antunes AC, Jensen VF, Jensen D (2019) Unweaving tangled mortality and antibiotic consumption data to detect disease outbreaks – Peaks, growths, and foresight in swine production. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0223250
  2. Polson, D. et al., 2018. Precision livestock farming (PLF) for pig health and production: Sound as a diagnostic sample. AASV, 2018.
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