veterinary medicine: portable blood sampling for farm animals & livestock
by Neoteryx | 2 min read
The world population is expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050. This means that food production needs to increase proportionately, by at least 60%, to feed an increased number of people around the globe. As food production increases, the demand for more livestock will intensify, through increased reproduction of farm animals. A primary goal will be to increase output per animal unit. Consequently, there will be more livestock to manage and the need to hire more livestock managers and veterinary medicine practitioners to keep the herds healthy.
Effective herd-health management might prove challenging, given the methods that are currently used to assess livestock. Traditional methods involve the use of visual assessments or scorings, which are time- and labor-intensive. With more animals being raised and maintained in wide-ranging areas, there will be a higher risk of making mistakes due to staff shortages and visual limitations. With larger herds, there will also be less time to monitor and care for each animal.
To help address these issues, more advanced animal health management methods have been developed to expedite livestock health assessment and animal disease diagnoses. One approach is the use of precision livestock farming, or PLC. This involves using engineering techniques to manage and monitor animal production, welfare, and health. The idea is to enhance farmers’ ability to assess individual animals and improve timely diagnosis of disease outbreaks following intense livestock production.
Implementing Precision Livestock Farming
Point-of-care (POC) applications are integral to implementing PLC farming. POC involves using portable, affordable analytical devices for remote specimen sample collection and rapid diagnosis to simplify things for farmers, livestock managers and veterinarians. Initially, POC testing was developed for human disease detection. It is now being applied to veterinary medicine, including vet diagnostics.
With POC testing, farmers can conduct rapid testing directly at the animal's side, which is critical to preventing severe outbreaks among a herd. Most POC testing kits are portable, disposable, and easy to use, which significantly minimizes the time required for testing and analysis.
Before POC, tests needed to be performed by veterinary professionals, and required careful handling during transportation to veterinary labs for analysis. After an outbreak, the timeframe for lab results and diagnosis was from several weeks to several months.
POC testing devices allow farmers to perform the blood sampling and tests on their own, without the need for a veterinary professional onsite. POC devices enable them to identify the problem and then take the necessary disease-control measures without delay.
POC Sampling and Testing Devices
POC sampling and testing devices are primarily designed to enable onsite collection of blood and other specimens for analysis and diagnosis. Microsampling has been identified as an effective approach for POC testing. Remote samples that can be mailed or shipped to the veterinary lab for analysis help reduce the need for a veterinarian to visit the farm, and can also eliminate the need to transport animals to a veterinary facility for examination.
Traditional blood collection methods in farming involved drawing large volumes of blood that required careful transportation, which increased cost. Advanced research in microsampling technologies has led to the development of volumetric absorptive microsampling, or VAMS®, with smaller devices like the Mitra® microsampler. Mitra facilitates the precise collection of smaller blood samples, which reduces stress on the animals. Samples as small as 10ul can be used for testing and diagnosis.
Microsampling devices reduce cost because only a small amount of blood is drawn. The Mitra microsamples don’t require cold storage or specialized transportation. This means farmers no longer need to transport animals unnecessarily, pay cold storage shipping costs for specimen samples, or request onsite veterinarian visits for blood sampling.