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Pig welfare and artificial intelligence key at JRP

The themes of pig welfare as well as artificial intelligence were the main topics at the 51st edition of the French Swine Research Days (JRP), held in Paris, France, on 6-7 February 2019.

The event, which is co-organised by the French Pork and Pig Institute (IFIP) and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), attracted nearly 450 participants, including around 100 international delegates from 12 countries. During 2 days, over 90 studies were presented (more than 50 posters on display and 40 oral presentations). Authors came from more than 100 research organisations and companies from 16 different countries.

Tool for assessing pig welfare

The innovation ‘BEEP’ is a simple tool for farmers to assess the welfare of their animals. Valérie Courboulay, IFIP, explained, “This assessment tool was co-constructed with farmers from 3 regions of France.”

Valérie Courboulay, IFIP, during her presentation at the French Swine Research Days. Philippe Caldier
Valérie Courboulay, IFIP, during her presentation at the French Swine Research Days. Philippe Caldier

A prototype tool was built and tested twice by farmers and their technicians on their farms. The final tool allows for 15 measurements that can be made in relation to the animals, in 2 rooms during the post-weaning and finishing periods. The tool is intended to be widely used by farmers or their advisers to assess the condition of the farm and its animals according to these indicators; then to compare results to other farms and consider pathways for progress.

Automatic data capture

Several papers at JRP dealt with the automatic capture of livestock data. In her presentation, Dr Nathalie Quiniou, IFIP, zoomed in on the accuracy of the information collected each hour by a so-called ‘accelerometer’ attached to the ear of gestating sows, in order to characterise her physical activity. Dr Quiniou said, “Automatically characterising the level of daily individual activity of sows can help to improve the adjustment of feed intake to needs.” She added that energy use doubles when the sow is awake.

In a 2nd presentation, Armelle Prunier of Pegase-INRA Saint Gilles, presented a method of automatic detection of damaging behaviour of breeding pigs, in the context of the European PigWatch project. She explained, “We will work in the future on the warning signs of these deleterious behaviours, in order to generate alerts and thus facilitate the work of the farmer.”

The French Swine Research Days were held for the 51st time. Philippe Caldier
The French Swine Research Days were held for the 51st time. Philippe Caldier

The ‘Treasure’ project

A special session was dedicated to the presentation of the ‘Treasure’ project. That project proposes a new paradigm for pork production, aimed at fostering the development of sustainable pork value chains, based on rarely exploited local pig breeds. The programme has been designed to meet consumer expectations about the quality of products with a regional identity, meet societal requirements regarding the environment and animal welfare and foster rural development.

In the spirit of the H2020 approach, the European ‘Treasure’ project involves partners from multiple sectors: research, development, advisory services, small and medium enterprises, breeders’ associations to create and strengthen the impact of research work and the transfer of knowledge to users.