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Cognitive Bias Testing Device for Lactating Sows

Developing a means of measuring the welfare of pigs is critical to Australia’s pork industry. This project focuses on the design and production of deployable cognitive bias testing and data-logging device for use inside the farrowing crates of lactating sows.

Being able to assess if a sow’s welfare is positive is just as important as being able to assess if it’s negative. Scientific tools exist to measure positive welfare in experimental settings, but there are no measures available at a farm level. As a sub project to support the Pork CRC, RMIT researchers were commissioned by the Animal Welfare Science Centre at the University of Melbourne to design and prototype a farm deployable system for assessing the contentment of sows during lactation. Comprising a robust pig interface and purpose designed software based on scientific indicators of positive welfare data from various piggery settings is gathered to build a detailed picture of the efficacy of enrichment tactics on the welfare of lactating sows – the hypothesis being that enrichment will increase the level of contentment a sow experiences during lactation. Ultimately the project aims to inform practical measures towards best practice in farms by measuring levels of contentment and the cognitive bias of lactating sows while they are in their farrowing crates.

Research Team
Liam Fennessy, Scott Mitchell & Joshua Batty
Research Collaborators
Rebecca Doyle (UoM / AWSC), Benjamin Brayshaw & Adam Grech
Industry Partners
Animal Welfare Science Centre, University of Melbourne, SARDI and the Pork CRC
Date: 2015-2016
Status: Current