Computers or computing devices are in use, and will be in use in the future to a greater extent, in the interest of animal production. Data collection, in one form or another, is fundamental to that usage. The ready availability of low cost digital processors, data converters and signal amplifiers, where appropriate, has ensured that this is so. The only constraint is with the difficulty of measurement and, in signal recording, whether suitable instrumentation devices or transducers exist or can be devised.
The important considerations are why the data are needed, how many data, when and in what form they are required.
From the answer to these questions will come as many diverse forms of data recording — albeit based on established techniques — as there are requirements to record, all of which may be realized using the same basic hardware components by virtue of the flexibility introduced by the need to program the processing element. In the manner of pure research, the answers to these questions constitute the design of the experiment, which too easily can be ill-considered, resulting in quantities of data useless to its original intent; where automation is considered, they constitute the design of the digital system required.
The range of requirements for data recording extends from manual keyboard entry to small computers engaged in farm management, through the systems designed to gather data automatically for the management of animal enterprises, to the specialized requirements for data to substantiate mathematical models of particular physiological processes in the animal. Within this range, the variation of requirement is fundamentally that of its dependancy upon the dimension of time.