How the System Works

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How GrowSafe Feed Intake and Behavior Monitoring Works

  • Each animal is tagged with an RFID ear tag. Every tag has a unique number.
  • A GrowSafe RFID antenna is moulded directly in the rim of the feed trough.
  • The RFID equipped trough is suspended on load cells.
  • Every second the animal is present at the feed trough the RFID tag is scanned, and feed trough disappearance is measured at a resolution of 10 grams.
  • The collected data is transferred wirelessly to the feedyard data acquisition computer and is automatically analysed and audited by GrowSafe software resident on the feedyard computer.

GrowSafe Feed Intake and Behavior Monitoring System capabilities include:

  • Proprietary GrowSafe ID reading technology
    GrowSafe is the world’s leader in providing RFID systems that enable unobstructed individual animal behavior measurement, capable of reading multiple transponders in close proximity.
  • Accurate feed disappearance measurement and high volume data acquisition
    GrowSafe feed intake nodes are sampled up to 8 times per second at a resolution of 10 grams.
  • Portability
    The system has been designed in “plug and play nodes” to enable multiple pen and research configurations. The system can be used in feedlots, dairies and/or on pasture.
  • Wireless
    The data acquisition computer can be located away from the system up to 50 miles line of sight.
  • Automatic system auditing
    Each day the system automatically audits the total feed supplied to the bunk and the amount of feed assigned to individual animals providing unparalleled data accuracy and integrity.

Automation

A GrowSafe system collects data every second. Our largest system collects about 15 million data points every day. During a significant hardware and software upgrade completed in 2010 we have fully automated every facet of data acquisition, calculation of intakes, behavior measurement and data analysis. This is unrivalled and unprecedented automation which significantly reduces farm and research trial labor.

System Measurement

The system measures and/or calculates:

  • Duration and intake for every individual feeding event up to one second accurate (feeding event criterion is user defined).
  • Head down and in to out duration during this event up to one second accurate.
  • Feed disappearance during events up to one second accurate.
  • Feeding frequency over user selected time interval.
  • Automatic calculation of feed supply.
  • Feeding rate throughout feeding event.
  • Animals standing at the bunk not consuming feed.
  • Time of the event, one second accurate.
  • Intervals between events.
  • Number of animals feeding simultaneously.
  • Social hierarchy – “who feeds besides who” and “who feeds first”.

GrowSafe Accuracy

GrowSafe continuously and automatically records every data point to the data acquisition computer hard drive. Data can be viewed immediately and/or be archived for later retrieval. The main advantages of continuous data recording are:

  • Data analysis is flexible, allowing a user to look at the data in many different ways.
  • No data is ‘lost’ – all events are automatically recorded.
  • Irregular events can be examined more carefully – micro-observations can be made within an event, interval and/or a study.
  • Interstudy and intrastudy comparison are more easily enabled.
  • Feed supply events, bunk cleaning, wind, rain and maintenance, can be identified.

A Closer Look at GrowSafe Accuracy: Measuring Below the Noise Floor

Measuring outdoors can seriously challenge measurement accuracy. A typical feed intake event in a competitive feeding situation averages ~450 grams. Severe wind conditions can create 500 grams of weight fluctuation. Measuring 450 grams of feed disappearance while there is 500 grams of noise is a daunting analytical challenge, requiring serious computing horsepower to traditionally overcome.

GrowSafe has developed advanced software which uses preceding as well as proceeding data techniques; and algorithms that exploit the vast processing power a modern personal computer has ‘on board’ to ensure accurate measurement even in less than perfect environmental conditions.

Security

GrowSafe data acquisition software can be secured under the Windows Operating System. Files can be fully secured by trial administrators. Configuration files are secured by password. Access to the data at the data acquisition site can be restricted. Audit trails record system access. Data can be remotely monitored, archived and analysed by authorize personnel. Remote access can be fully secured.

Feed Supply

GrowSafe continuously records feed disappearance and appearance at the trough, and audits unassigned feed disappearance. We have demonstrated through several research studies that automated feed supply calculation using a GrowSafe is highly accurate. (R2=0.994, P<0.001 Basarab 2002)

As data is acquired by GrowSafe every second, unaccounted feed disappearance audits routinely demonstrate that very little feed is unassigned during feed supply events. To overcome the inability to collect data during a feed supply event, one of our competitors have designed a costly workaround, a “lock down” mechanism which must be activated before the feed wagon supplies the feed. A GrowSafe system does not require this lock down period and/or expensive pneumatic feed deflectors which need to be operated before a feed supply event can occur.

Central Control and Management System

All software required to collect and log consumption and behavior data from each independent station and animal electronic ID has been included within the data acquisition software included in the base system pricing. Extended analytical capabilities are offered in additional software packages. As there are no lock down gates or mechanisms, GrowSafe does not impede feeding or drinking activities if the data acquisition computer or any component of the system is “off line”.

Software Routines

GrowSafe Data Acquisition (DAQ) software includes analysis routines as separate executables which can be accessed directly from DAQ software. All systems have at least one analysis routine that calculates daily individual animal feed intakes bundled into the base system data acquisition software.

Software Validation

GrowSafe Software has been repeatedly validated by our customers and in-house through independent functional testing. We design and develop our systems with intrinsic data validation tools that continuously monitor data integrity and accuracy.

System Diagnostics

Advanced diagnostic tools, alarms and troubleshooting capabilities have been built into both hardware and data acquisition software. Continuous system diagnostic dialogues can be displayed to assist in system performance assessment and troubleshooting hardware, animals feeding and other components.

Audit Trails

There is no ability for a user to change or amend the raw data collected. In addition to data points collected, null occurrences, instances where data points should have been collected and were not, are also identified. There is continuous communication error checking and status reporting that can be viewed in real time or historically reviewed. This includes the following:

  • Weight scale status monitoring.
  • Communication.
  • Weight data integrity audit.
  • Resonant antenna voltage monitoring with alarm capabilities which continuously check the integrity of the ID system.
  • RFID status monitoring.
  • Behavior data integrity.
  • History of RFID system performance – occupancy at bunks.

Alarms

Error flags appear on screen when the system requires attention. There are many other points during data collection where alarms can be enabled if system performance, animal behavior, and/or specific study conditions need to be identified by the system. Automatic messaging to telephones, cellular phones, pagers and or alarms by email can be enabled depending on study requirements.

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