Chessa, Giovanni (2017) Mechatronics applications and prototyping sensors for the precision livestock farming. Doctoral Thesis.
The study is subdivided into 5 chapters and comprises a review of the main components of Plf, the development of a prototype for EC monitoring in ewe milk, a prototype for monitoring animals body temperature, the optimization of collection rounds of goat milk and the development of a prototype for somatic cell count (SCC) through the measurement of Sodium ions in ewe milk. The first chapter is a review of the advancements of the main components of Plf, i.e. software, hardware and data transmission, focusing on issues related to hardware modularity and differences between licensed and unlicensed software. From the review it emerges that image processing is one of the most used techniques in Plf systems, in that it allows the detection of behavioral, biological and pathological parameters without interfering with the animals routine activities. In this regard the area occupied by a lamb carcass was calculated by using an image analysis open source software, CellProfiler (Jones et al., 2008). The second chapter deals with the realization of an innovative portable tool for somatic cells count in ewe milk by measuring its electrical conductivity. There are over 15,000 dairy sheep farms in Sardinia, which represent both historically and economically the most important agricultural and livestock sector in the island. Indeed, Sardinia holds more than 40% of the national sheep population thanks to more than 3 million sheep heads that provide about 60% of the total national milk production. One of the most common problems in sheep farms is mastitis, an intramammary infection which may cause a quantitative reduction up to 50% in milk production and a qualitative drop, in particular of lactose and casein. One of the indirect methods for the assessment of somatic cell count (SCC) in ruminants’ milk is through the measurement of its electrical conductivity (EC). In small ruminants, EC has a reasonable correlation R2 = 0.35 with somatic cells but to date there is still not a portable tool that can estimate SCC based on the milk’s EC reading. The prototype was calibrated on Sarda ewe milk. The aim of Chapter 3 was to develop a system using a open source sensors, actuators and micro-controller. The system is able to monitoring the rectal temperature of the animals, sending data via Bluetooth to a smart phone. The micro-controller used was an ATmega32U4, the temperature was read using the LM35 analogic sensor and a Class 1 Bluetooth serial module was connected to Arduino creating a wireless serial link between an Android phone and the Arduino board. The application for receiving data on an android smart phone was created using App Inventor that is an innovative Android application creation software developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This app is free available on Google Play Store under the name animal_temp. The costs of sheep milk collection rounds in Sardinia have been analysed in chapter fourth. The escalating costs incurred by the dairy processing industries for milk collection from individual farms have focused the attention on the rationalization of milk collection and transport systems. In this regard, the case of the Sardinian goat sector has characteristics that make it unique and not comparable to other logistics optimization realities. The problems of this sector are mainly represented by the particular conditions of the rural road network and the fragmented nature of livestock farms. The aim of the present study was to test a milk collection route optimization software, MilkTour, in the collection rounds of a sample cheese dairy. The software has been developed by the Land Engineering Section of the Agriculture Department of the University of Sassari. A total of 5 routes were analysed and optimized. The results have highlighted the importance of optimizing collection routes as they have a significant impact on business costs. A important contribution that has emerged is the strong correlation between collection density and the cost per litre of collected milk (€cent/l), which allows to detects the cost-effectiveness of a round of collection and its relative optimized around. The objective of chapter 5 was to study the relationship between the ione Na+ and the main components of sheep milk, in particular somatic cells. Moreover, a portable device for estimating SCC in sheep milk was designed. The study was conducted on over 2000 samples. The milk components examined were: fat, proteins, lactose, pH, sodium chloride, urea and the ions Na+. The correlation between Na + and SCC corresponded to R2 = 0.76 (P <0.01). The prototype developed incorporates two containers which receives milk samples taken from each half udder. Each container has integrated inside two sensors, one to detect the level of Na+ in the milk and the other one to compensate the milk temperature. The mathematical model, loaded into the microcontroller by a firmware written in C / C ++, analyze the data and gives back the estimate of SCC level, so it allows farmers to monitor the ewes health status by periodically comparing the somatic cell counts of each half udder. While dealing with different topics the 5 chapters can be enclose in a big new topic, called Precision Livestock Farming (Plf). Plf is the discipline that allows to monitor in real-time the numerous biological and environmental parameters concerning each individual animal of the herd. A Plf system is always made up by three components: a physical element, i.e. the hardware; an element for data processing and presentation, known as the software; and an element for the transmission of data, i.e. the network. The hardware comprises the sensors, the computers and/or microcontrollers, the data transmission and acquisition systems and the actuators. Mathematical models for data processing and the data presentation interface are included in the software loaded into the microcontroller.
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