In honour of the Chinese New Year celebrating the Year of the Pig, it is worth remembering some of the most famous pigs in movies and literature. The list includes Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, Babe, the sheepdog pig from the eponymous movie and Piglet from Winne-the-Pooh. In the Chinese tradition, pigs are associated with wealth and good fortune.
But while pigs are celebrated for being clever, sometimes they can benefit from the help of technology. In farming, technologies such as tagging, information gathering and analysis using algorithms can help pigs live healthier and more productively.
While smart farming is used extensively around the world, farmers in the Netherlands have adopted technologies that can monitor their animals, help prevent accidental deaths, automate feeding and cleaning processes and initiate targeted care.
For example, using RFID, farmers can identify and track each of the pigs on their farm in order to measure individual growth, food intake and weight. This allows farmers to monitor their pigs for diseases by, for example, tracking if one animal loses its appetite or begins to lose weight. This protects the other pigs since the sick pig can be quickly diagnosed and separated from the others before the disease has time to spread.
While ear tags are often used as a mechanism to identify each pig, other technologies such as wearable patches and biometrics, are also being introduced. One company in the United States has developed a specially designed adhesive patch to track pigs but also to provide an electric shock to prevent sows from accidentally crushing their piglets to death.
Sound monitors combined with data analysis are used to track sounds and detect anomalies. Squeals, grunts and snorts can be categories between those that are healthy or not. Porcine squeals against dangers can be identified and appropriate action taken. Coughs are monitored and provide an early warning against illness.
In the Netherlands, a management information database allows pig farmers to record and share information. Major events, like births, can be benchmarked and shared with other farmers. Data exchanges increase knowledge with the aim of improving care and results.
Automated systems within the farming complex can also provide farmers with support. Feeding systems can be automated so that feeds arrive at set times. Alternatively, sensors can be used to measure when troughs need to be refilled. Temperature gauges and cleaning systems can also be automated so that pigs are provided with an optimized living environment.
These technologies rely on the many standards developed by the IEC, from sensors and RFID to biometrics and microphones. And pigs can live in comfortable environment and enjoy their Chinese New Year celebration.