8 December 2000

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Reducing costs, increasing production and improving animal

health were behind the award winning Innovations for livestock

producers at EuroTier 2000 in Germany. Philip Clarke reports

BETTER use of labour and increased productivity are two of the accolades being heaped on Scippy, the worlds first robotic boar, who stole the show at EuroTier 2000 in Hanover.

The model pig was one of three gold medal winners in the regular Innovations competition run by the livestock show organisers, DLG.

Powered by battery, the life-sized model boar is designed to cruise piggery corridors, emitting sexually arousing grunts and smells.

"This gets sows in the right mood, encouraging them into heat for artificial insemination," said Staff Lasters of Dutch manufacturer, Schippers. "But, unlike a real boar, Scippy does not need feeding, does not make any dung and does not go to sleep after 15 minutes."

Experience so far, including six months of trials on farms in Holland, suggests a performance gain of about one more piglet a sow a year, due to better conception rates, claims the company.

Photo-electric cells front and back detect when the robot reaches the end of the aisle, at which point it turns round and travels back past sows.

The smell comes from an aerosol of synthetic sex odour which is sprayed horizontally every five seconds, or less frequently if desired. Pre-recorded boar grunts are emitted continuously and the battery lasts for 30 hours before it needs recharging.

So far Schippers has sold about 120 Scippys in Holland in its first three months, charging about £1300 for each robot. Scippy has been patented world-wide, though as yet the company has no UK agent.

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Silver medals

A further 24 silver medals were awarded in the DLG Innovations competition, including:

&#8226 A new demand feeding system for group-housed sows from Duraumat Stalleinrichtungen. Each animal is identified by computer chip at the trough and a pre-determined amount of liquid feed is supplied at regulated time intervals.

&#8226 The Suevia cow brush – massages cows backs in zero-grazing dairy systems. Cows activate the mechanism by pushing upwards, and the brush then vibrates, improving cow welfare. Unlike the more common rotating brush, this system is less likely to damage the animals ears.

&#8226 Automatic trouble shooting system for the WEDA liquid feeding system. New computer software from WEDA will automatically phone the farmer on a mobile if there is a problem with the pig feeding system. It will indicate what the problem is and give the numbers to press on a mobile phone to sort it out automatically.

&#8226 Three advanced battery cages for laying hens, from Salmet International, Big Dutchman and Meller Batterien. The new cages comply with the new EU Directive 1999/74/EC and include seat perches, nests, claw abrading and scratching spaces

&#8226 Agrimonitor from Planet ID – evaluates uterus contractions in cows waiting to calve, providing the farmer with up-to-the-minute information, such as "problem birth" or "imminent birth", in the comfort of the farmhouse.

Arousing interest… Scippy the robotic boar helps sows get in the mood by spraying them with odour.