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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Characterizing and Managing Animal Stress/Well-Being in Livestock Production Title: Analysis of feeding behavior of group housed growing-finishing pigs

Authors
item Brown Brandl, Tami
item Rohrer, Gary
item Eigenberg, Roger

Submitted to: Computers and Electronics in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 8, 2013
Publication Date: June 23, 2013
Citation: Brown Brandl, T.M., Rohrer, G.A., Eigenberg, R.A. 2013. Analysis of feeding behavior of group housed growing-finishing pigs. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. 96:246–252. Online available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compag.2013.06.002.

Interpretive Summary: A system was developed for monitoring feeding activity in growing-finishing pigs using electronic ear tag technology. The system has been used for 2 years and 4 groups of pigs have been raised in the facility. Feeding behavior was evaluated to investigate the changes in time spent eating due to age of the pigs, differences between barrows and gilts, difference between fast- and slow-growing pigs, and the impacts of disease. It was found that pigs increase their time eating until they are approximately 107 days of age. After 107 days of age, barrows spent about 13.6 min/day more at the feeder than the gilts. The fast growing pigs spent more time at the feeder throughout the grow-out period than the slow growing pigs. This technology shows promise in identifying presence of disease in individual animals, days before it can be identified by animal caretakers.

Technical Abstract: Feeding behavior contains valuable information that can be used for managing livestock, identifying sick animals, and determining genetic differences within a herd. A system was developed to determine individual animal feeding behavior in an industry type feeding system. The system used radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and a series of multiplexers. Data was collected on 960 pigs (mixed barrows and gilts) over 4 grow-out periods. The animals entered the facility at 24.6 ± 5.4 kg and exited the facility at 101.4 ± 13.8 kg. Time spent at the feeder was analyzed for the effects of days on feed, sex, weight gain, and health effects. The amount of time spent at the feeder averaged 68.8 min/day/pig over the grow-out period, and increased from day 0 (1.28 min/day/pig) until plateauing at day 40 (76.7 min/day/pig). At the plateau, barrows spent 13.6 more minutes per day at the feeder than gilts. Pigs classified as ‘as high gaining’ spent more time at the feeder than pigs classified as either ‘normal’ or ‘low gaining.’

Last Modified: 7/24/2014
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