Farm app that determines a happy animal wins top prize

Being the first of its kind, the farm app won a top award at last night's BBC Food & Farming Awards
Being the first of its kind, the farm app won a top award at last night's BBC Food & Farming Awards

Creators of innovative mobile technology which assesses the emotional state of livestock have won the top category at last night's BBC Food and Farming Awards.

Scotland's Rural College's (SRUC) app aims to help farmers assess and understand the emotional wellbeing of farm animals in a bid to improve health and welfare.

Developed by the college's animal behavioural scientists, it has licensed the app for trial and development on Waitrose's farms over the next two years.

Due to work's success, SRUC and Waitrose won the 'Farming for the Future' category at Wednesday night's BBC Food and Farming Awards.

The app was applauded for helping welfare assessors better recognise and record emotionally expressive behaviour that - in part - contribute to an animal’s quality of life.

Although the app itself is designed to be practical and easy to use on farm, it is underpinned by rigorous scientific research, which its creator, Professor Francoise Wemelsfelder, calls 'Qualitative Behavioural Assessment' (QBA).

The method allows inspectors to record different expressive qualities of behaviour through the app, such as being relaxed, tense, playful or anxious - behaviours indicative of an animal’s emotional body language and signs of their general wellbeing.

This helps field teams assessing farms to develop their skills and to help them describe and quantify the different expressions they observe when looking at their animals.

In turn, the app's creators say this will help them better understand the mood the animals are experiencing while interacting with each other and their environment.

Professor Wemelsfelder said: “This app and the scientific method behind it is about getting to know how different animals, and different animal species, express their feelings so that we can not only understand them better, but also care for them better.

"Farmers and stock people who work with animals every day will have already acquired a lot of this understanding over the years, and our app wants to support and build on this."