Dr. Tami Brown-Brandl
Dr. Yijie Xiong
Date of this Version
Precision livestock farming (PLF) is an increasing concept in livestock production sectors to improve overall animal health and wellbeing, as well as ensuring that their environment is beneficial to their welfare. This method is growing increasingly popular in swine production to increase productivity by monitoring health and behavior. Currently, pre-weaning mortality averages 17.3%, and ranges from 0 – 100%, in the US. The large variability indicates there is a significant difference in ‘mothering ability’. Differences in a sow’s activity level and speed of movements may contribute to her ability to successfully raise a litter. The goal of this research is to provide a method in identifying farrowing sow behavior and postural changes during parturition and lactation to mitigate pre-weaning piglet mortality that is economically efficient and can eventually be used in industry. The overarching objective of thesis was to investigate the use of an accelerometer to determine lactating sow static postures and posture changes and to determine a time-budget of sow activity. 3D tri-axial accelerometer sensor attached between the shoulder blades of lactating sows to track their static acceleration and posture changes. Lying right, lying other, standing, sitting, lying left, and kneeling were all observed and X-, Y-, and Z-acceleration values were utilized to determine the postures. There was a significant difference between sitting and standing in acceleration X and a significant difference between lying-left and lying-right in accelerations Y and Z, respectively. A combination of the X-, Y-, and Z-values was also used to determine different static postures by comparing the significant differences. Next, a time-budget of sow postures and behaviors was found at three time periods: 1) prior to farrowing (2 days prior), 2) early-lactation (2-days), and 3) mid-lactation (9-days). In addition, time-budgets for the piglets were determined at the ages of 2 and 9 days of age. Video and time lapse images were captured in three different 5-week periods of three sows each period. Differences between all the days were found in the amount of time lying left and right, lying other, sitting, standing, eating, and drinking at pre-farrowing, early-lactation, and mid-lactation. Sows were found to be more active at pre-farrowing suggesting restlessness and least active at early-lactation and mid-lactation. There were no differences in piglets resting, but there were higher occurrences in piglets active and nursing at nine days old compared to two days old.
Advisor and Co-advisor: Tami Brown-Brandl and Yijie Xiong