Today I am participating in a kick-off meeting of the project ‘The intelligent Farrowing Pen’. The four-year project is supported by Højteknologifonden, The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Skov A/S and Danish Pig Production.
The goal is to develop a system whereby the condition and activity of the animals will be registered. For example, previous studies have shown that the sow is very active in the 24 hours prior to farrowing. She stands up and lies down often and spends time building a nest. This knowledge can be used to predict when she will farrow within a narrow margin.
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 20° C.
Apart from the level of activity, the goal is also 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.