22 October 1999

Program able to detect coughs

COUGHS are often the first signs of poorly animals, but producers are unable to spend all day listening for something wrong.

In future, these coughs could be monitored by a computer program which can detect sick animals and in time may be able to diagnose what is wrong, according to research reported in New Scientist, Oct 16.

The software – developed by researchers at the Catholic University in Leuven – Belgium, is able to distinguish between coughs and other background noises by looking for telltale energy levels in sound frequency bands.

Tests in pig units are encouraging, successfully diagnosing 92% of coughs, says head of the Leuven research team, Danial Berckmans.

Coughs are commonplace in pig units, especially after pigs are moved, but healthy pigs soon stop, leaving only sick ones coughing. The program issues a warning when the number and frequency of coughs exceeds a certain limit, he says.

Researchers are now working with vets to build up a database of noises made by sick animals. &#42