Researchers: Bernardo Predicala, Prairie Swine Centre and University of Saskatchewan College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; A. Alvarado and R. Baah, Prairie Swine Centre
Pork producers and pig caregivers develop a keen eye to see what the pigs in their barns need, and they catch the first glimpse if something is wrong with the animals. Sometimes even the keenest eye needs a little help, however, and technology might be able to offer it.
Researchers at the Prairie Swine Centre and the University of Saskatchewan recently studied two novel technologies consisting of an individual water consumption system (IWCS) and infrared thermography system (ITHS) installed in a finishing room.
As part of a larger Swine Innovation Porc project, “Use of novel technologies to optimize pig performance, welfare and carcass value,” various technologies were developed and pilot-tested in different universities and research centers throughout Canada (under coordination of the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement). After pilot studies were completed by the original developers of the technologies, the next step was to conduct commercial trials, where selected developed technologies were applied in a production environment and evaluated under typical commercial practices.
Commercial trials were a critical step after the research and development phase, providing the opportunity to make adjustments to the technologies, facilitating their adoption in commercial barns.
The IWCS originally developed by researchers at Centre de développement du porc du Québec Inc. and ITHS developed by researchers at Lacombe Research Centre were installed in a grow-finish room with six 14-pig pens. The IWCS comprised a nipple drinker attached to a water flowmeter, and RFID reader and antenna together with electronic ear tag transponders. The ITHS was composed of two types of infrared cameras: a C3 camera and an A325 infrared thermography camera. The A325 IRT cameras were used to capture the image of all the pigs in the pen, while the C3 cameras were installed on top of the drinker to capture the image of an individual pig while drinking.
Pigs were transferred into the room at 20 to 25 kilograms and remained in the room for 10 weeks until reaching 105 to 110 kg. Periodically, stress was induced on the pigs through physical movement and by mixing unfamiliar pigs, and the corresponding response detected by both ITHS and IWCS.
Results and discussion
Regardless of stress induction, water consumption increased as the trial progressed. At the start of the trial, grower pigs had an average water consumption of about 4,014 milliliters per day; this increased to 5,876 mL per day toward the end of the trial, when pigs were nearing market weight.
At the start and middle of the trial, pigs tended to consume more water after the moving activity. On average, pigs consumed about 3,890 and 5,226 mL 24 hours before stress was induced at the start of the trial and middle of the trial respectively, increasing to 4,138 and 5,878 mL after the stress was induced. These results may imply that grower pigs consumed more water when stressed. No apparent trend was observed for water consumption toward the end of the trial.
Water consumption, mixing. In contrast to the moving activity, water consumption generally dropped 24 hours after mixing unfamiliar pigs into the pen. Pigs consumed an average of about 5,387 mL per day of water prior to mixing activity; this fell to 4,738 mL per day 24 hours after mixing. The water consumption decrease might be due to aggression occurring post-mixing, which prevented some pigs getting access to the drinker. This observation may also have caused the lack of apparent increase in water consumption from the start to the end of each trial.
Infrared thermography, handling. At the start and middle of the trial, no considerable change in body temperatures was observed. Toward the end of the trial when pigs were close to market weight, a slight increase in body temperature was observed after the moving activity. Pig average body temperature was 36.5 degrees Celsius before the moving exercise; this increased to 36.8 C after the mixing activity. This minimal change in body temperature could indicate the moving activity may not have been sufficiently strenuous to cause a marked change in body temperature of pigs.
Infrared thermography, mixing. Increase in body temperature after the mixing activity was observed at the middle and end of the trial. At the middle of the trial, the average body temperature was about 37.4 C; this increased to about 37.9 C after the introduction of new pigs into the pen. Similarly, the average body temperature increased from 35.6 C to 35.9 C after the mixing activity at the end of the trial. The increase in body temperature could be due to the level of aggression, which seemed to have more impact on body temperature changes than on water consumption.
Pigs had an average daily gain of 1.17 ± 0.05 kg per day and an average backfat depth of 0.10 ± 0.01 mL per day. These values were comparable to ADG and backfat depth of pigs in typical production barns. No considerable difference was observed in ADG and backfat depth of pigs between the two completed trials.
The researchers reached three conclusions:
1. Using the IWCS, it was observed that grower pigs tend to consume more water when stressed. The system also confirmed that water consumption increased as the pig grew, regardless of stress induction.
2. As captured by the ITHS, aggression as a result of mixing unfamiliar pigs to the pen caused an increase in the recorded body temperature of pigs. The system also showed that the pigs’ body temperature was affected by changes in room temperatures.
3. In this study, installation of the IWCS and ITHS and inducing stress due to moving and mixing had no considerable negative impact on pig production performance.
Researchers acknowledge the financial support for this research project provided by Swine Innovation Porc, as well as acknowledging the collaboration of researchers from CCSI, Centre de développement du porc du Québec Inc. and Lacombe Research Centre in carrying out this study. Strategic program funding provided by Saskatchewan Pork Development Board, Alberta Pork, Ontario Pork, the Manitoba Pork Council and the Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund is also acknowledged. Researchers also acknowledge the support of the production and research technicians at Prairie Swine Centre, who made it possible to conduct this research.
For more information, contact Bernardo Predicala.
Sources: Bernardo Predicala, Prairie Swine Centre and University of Saskatchewan; and A. Alvarado and R. Baah, Prairie Swine Centre, who are solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.