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Automatic fertility monitoring for pigs - LS3304

Artificial insemination is used extensively in the pig industry and its use is expected to grow. Accurate detection of ovulation is critical to litter size and farrowing rate. Accurate ovulation detection in sows could reduce losses in the British pig industry by £300m per annum. The high culling rate of inaccurately diagnosed "barren" sows is both an economic and welfare issue. Accurate ovulation detection could allow a reduction in the breeding herd of 30% thereby reducing environmental pollution and waste.

At present ovulation prediction is dependent upon good observation and record keeping by the herdsman. The timing of ovulation relative to oestrus is highly variable and multiple inseminations are often used even though these risk intrauterine infections. If the timing of insemination could be improved maximum fertility rates could be achieved with a single insemination. There is a need for an improved method of oestrus detection or preferably ovulation prediction so that insemination can be timed accurately.

The objective of this project is to determine whether an automatic ovulation prediction system can be developed. At a modified sow feeding station a transponder could identify the individual pig, A switch that the pig had to nuzzle (as in a drinker) could be the trigger to dispense food. Inside the switch a small suction pump could take a saliva sample. The saliva could then be analysed for oestrogens and other hormones by a biosensor. A herd management database would record the oestrogen concentrations. When a pre-programmed scenario is achieved (e.g. oestrogen declines to 50% of its maximum value or to within mean +/- 2SD of the preceding baseline value), the stockman could be alerted about the impending ovulation.

The project will determine an algorithm allowing hormone concentrations in saliva to be used to predict ovulation in dry sows. We will determine a method of making a biosensor capable of measuring the relevant hormones in saliva. We will demonstrate a method of automatically collecting samples via interactive ethology at a feeder. We will assemble a team of British based industrial and research partners to take the project through to market.

Project Documents
• Final Report : Automatic ovulation prediction for pigs   (6670k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2000

To: 2004

Cost: £313,333
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Silsoe Research Institute (BBSRC)
Livestock Farming              
Fields of Study