Visualization Dashboard for Improving Dairy Cow Welfare

Alumni Data Science Project

Animal welfare is increasingly important to both farmers and consumers. Modern farms housing dairy cows are often equipped with a variety of sensors collecting data on cattle behaviour. Emerging research has shown promise in the monitoring of changes in cattle behaviour for the early detection of health and welfare problems. The Dairy Education and Research Centre at the UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS) is among the dairy farms that readily collects data on cattle behaviour. This includes data on all visits to feed and water bins as well as lying and standing behaviour. Although this data is readily available, its practical usage for inferring cow welfare has been limited due to the lack of an easy-to-use integrated data visualization dashboard. 

Hearing about the need for this visualization tool, a group of MDS Vancouver alumni approached members from the Animal Welfare Program at the LFS to organize a two week-long hackathon event with the goal of creating this much-needed dashboard. Given the time constraints of this collaboration, the MDS and LFS teams worked together to identify key visualizations and functionalities that would provide the greatest insights on cattle health and welfare. Seven volunteers from the 2020-2021 MDS cohort (Ify Anene, Steffen Pentelow, Selma Durić, Rafael Hellwig, Elanor Boyle-Stanley, Ela Bandari, and Sasha Babicki) built a functional prototype of this visualization dashboard during the two week event. 

The dashboard was created using open-source R Shiny infrastructure and contains five tabs covering a variety of visualizations for understanding daily activities, feed bin patterns, and relationships between cows. In addition to these visualizations a basic warning system was implemented to alert the user of potential problems with cows or feed/water bins that should be checked. 

Following the completion of the hackathon, the dashboard was shared with members of the Dairy Education and Research Centre. To aid with the successful integration of the project, training sessions were offered to members of the Dairy Centre. 

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