Scientists develop 'Intelligent Farrowing Pen'
Scientists at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at
the University of Aarhus aim to reduce piglet mortality by developing a new type
of climate control and monitoring in farrowing pens. The result could be
improved pig welfare and farmer finances.
For a newborn piglet emerging from a warm and secure environment to land on
a cool floor of a modern farrowing pen, is not ideal. It is a rather tepid start
in life for a piglet that in its first few days of life is very poor at
regulating body temperature. Figures from sow farms attest to this fact; on
average 23 percent of piglets die before weaning.
Part of the concept of the intelligent pen includes climate control
right down on the level of the individual farrowing pen. Warmth is what the
little pigs really appreciate in their first few days of life.
few piglets die due to lack of oxygen during birth. Others are born weak or are
chilled immediately post partum. Such piglets are in great risk of dying. On
average, one whole pig per litter can be saved just by providing warmth
immediately after birth. That alone would be a huge economical boost, says
senior scientist and project leader Lene Juul Pedersen from the Department of
Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.
Regulating heat right down on the level of the individual pen is the aim
of the scientists. Today climate is regulated for a whole farrowing house unit
at a time. We would like to develop methods that build on our knowledge of the
animals' behaviour. On the basis of their behaviour we can predict when the
farrowing will take place and couple that to advanced heat control so we can
regulate the climate in each pen according to the needs of the animals in it.
Together with Skov A/S, the scientists will
develop a system whereby the condition and activity of the animals will be
registered. When the system predicts when the sow is expected to farrow, a
message is given to the farmer and to a climate control system that ensures that
there is more heat in the pen. Not only does this save piglets. It could perhaps
also save heating bills in the farrowing barn, which is usually kept at around
â€œThe relatively high temperature in the room is for the sake of the
piglets, but the sow would probably prefer it so be somewhat coolerâ€, says Lene
Apart from the level of activity, we would also like to
develop sensors that can measure conditions such as where in the pen the sow and
her piglets are and how the sow and her piglets are doing. This would provide
the farmer with important information about the well-being of the animals and if
there are any problems coming on, the farmer can take action before small
problems grow big.
The research project will also be investigating
whether it is most practical to measure conditions using sensors, chips in the
ear or video surveillance.
â€¢ University of Aarhus
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