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VTag: a semi-supervised pipeline for tracking pig activity with a single top-view camera


Precision livestock farming has become an important research focus with the rising demand of meat production in the swine industry. Currently, the farming practice is widely conducted by the technology of computer vision (CV), which automates monitoring pig activity solely based on video recordings. Automation is fulfilled by deriving imagery features that can guide CV systems to recognize animals' body contours, positions, and behavioral categories. Nevertheless, the performance of the CV systems is sensitive to the quality of imagery features. When the CV system is deployed in a variable environment, its performance may decrease as the features are not generalized enough under different illumination conditions. Moreover, most CV systems are established by supervised learning, in which intensive effort in labeling ground truths for the training process is required. Hence, a semi-supervised pipeline, VTag, is developed in this study. The pipeline focuses on long-term tracking of pig activity without requesting any pre-labeled video but a few human supervisions to build a CV system. The pipeline can be rapidly deployed as only one top-view RGB camera is needed for the tracking task. Additionally, the pipeline was released as a software tool with a friendly graphical interface available to general users. Among the presented datasets, the average tracking error was 17.99 cm. Besides, with the prediction results, the pig moving distance per unit time can be estimated for activity studies. Finally, as the motion is monitored, a heat map showing spatial hot spots visited by the pigs can be useful guidance for farming management. The presented pipeline saves massive laborious work in preparing training dataset. The rapid deployment of the tracking system paves the way for pig behavior monitoring.

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