Video analysis allows tailor-made diet
DATA on pig health, weight and growth rates could soon be collected using video image analysis, allowing rations to be tailored to the individual pigs needs.
The technique has been developed at Silsoe Research Institute by research scientist Paddy Schofield who says that while regular, conventional weighing and recording provides vital information on growth rates and condition, it is stressful for the pig, time consuming and costly.
"However, when a video camera is used, estimates of weight and condition can be taken frequently, 24 hours a day with the pig completely undisturbed," he says.
He explains that the Growth Rate and Conformation Evaluation (GRACE) system is based on a video camera and computer with specifically designed software. GRACE will be developed commercially by Hunday Electronics which has linked the image analysis with its existing electronic feeding system.
As the pig visits the feeder, the cameras image is analysed by computer software which first either discards any image which does not conform with its preprogrammed image of a pig or it distinguishes the pigs basic outline.
It then searches for points on the image of the pigs back which it has been programmed to recognise and takes measurements. These measurements are then used to calculate live-weight and the whole process takes under 10secs.
"Because pigs visit feeders up to 60 times a day enough measurements can be collected to establish changes in the proportions giving accurate estimates of condition and growth rates.
"Changes in an individual pigs condition and behaviour are, therefore, identified at an early stage, allowing staff to spot disease quickly," says Mr Schofield.
He suggests that daily growth rates can be established and could then be used to tailor feed regimes to match the individual pigs requirements.
Pigs from a wide range of sizes and growth patterns within a pen could then be offered different quantities of feed. This would improve feeding efficiency, with less overfeeding. This in turn would enable more accurate predictions and manipulation of marketing dates to optimise sale dates.
Development is now entering the final stages with PIC evaluating the system on a commercial scale before a launch within the next 18 months.n
Paddy Schofield is using image analysis to tailor-make pig diets.