Animal welfare is at the core of HKScan's responsibility work and the company promotes it in cooperation with its contract farmers and other partners. The development of animal welfare improves the competitiveness and responsibility of the local food chain.

HKScan's new animal welfare research will gather information on the behaviour of bulls in an insulated barn through video imaging and develop the use of artificial intelligence to identify different behavioural activities from the video. 

“In addition to basic activities, we are exploring the possibility of teaching the machine vision to recognise more specific social behaviours such as playing or body grooming. This will allow us to determine the time budget of beef cattle in the insulated barn conditions, i.e. how much time the bulls spend lying down, eating, standing and possibly engaging in social behaviour. We are also developing AI-based measurement technology for cattle brush use," says Heidi Härtel, a veterinarian at HKScan.

Together with HKScan’s contract farmers, we can use the results to compare different rearing conditions and improve animal welfare, for example.

Smart cameras observing 24/7

A human eye in needed to verify animal welfare. The advantage of smart cameras is that they can be used to monitor animals and conditions even when humans are not present.

More information is needed on the behaviour and welfare of bulls under Nordic rearing conditions, as cattle research has mainly focused on dairy cows and calves. There have been no ready-to-use technology applications to monitor the behaviour and assess the welfare of beef cattle.

Measuring cattle welfare is complex. Nowadays, welfare is not only concerned with the fulfilment of basic needs and species-specific behavioural requirements, but also with the positive emotional state of the animal and, for example, the ability to influence its own well-being. 

“This study will provide new information on the behaviour of bulls. AI applications reading animal behaviour really seem like interesting tools to promote animal welfare," says Laura Hänninen, Senior Clinical Instructor in Animal Welfare and Protection University of Helsinki. 

The project, led by HKScan, involves the University of Helsinki's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Empirica Finland, a JAMK graduate student and HKScan’s contract farm under research. The project has received funding from Business Finland.

Further information:
Heidi Härtel, Veterinarian, HKScan/Innoagro Oy, heidi.hartel, tel. +358 40 823 2076 
HKScan Media Service Desk,, tel. +358 010 570 5700