Project C: Pig Group Introduction

As agonistic behaviour among unfamiliar pigs is necessary to develop a dominant hierarchy within a group, a minimal level of aggression in group-housed pigs at mixing cannot be completely eliminated. In many cases however, elevated forms of aggression have been reported by farmers and other professionals as one of the biggest problems of the modern husbandry system. Management strategies should focus on controlling aggression and protecting vulnerable animals from aggression.

Furthermore, there is abnormal behaviour as tail biting and ear biting, which also leads to injuries and increased stress levels in pigs. High stocking density, poor enriched environment and air quality are pointed as the main causes for this behaviour and it affects particularly fattening pigs. Because of the multifactorial origin, it is difficult to reduce tail biting in affected pig farms. Tail docking is currently regarded as an effective countermeasure.

According to the EU Directive 2001/93/EG, tail docking is forbidden as a common management strategy and is only allowed under veterinary prescription. In 2013 group housing of sows will be obligatory (2001/88/EG), resulting in a higher level of mixing-induced aggression. Consequently, different stakeholders in the pig production chain, such as farmers, equipment suppliers, customers and policy makers are interested in the development of adequate solutions to reduce aggressive and abnormal behaviours in pig.
Facing this new situation/reality it is necessary to study the behaviours which have the most relevant effects in terms of economical losses and develop a product that can help the farmers to prevent injuries due to these interactions.

Precision Livestock Farming techniques offer possibilities  to manage undesired animal behaviour by objective automatic monitoring/controlling in real time. In this project, the 4 fellows will be trained in the development and marketing of a vision based monitoring and analysis system for automatic detection of aggressive behaviour of group housed pigs (sows, fattening pigs). The collaborative research and training of the fellows involved to the development of the automatic tool for monitoring of pig aggression is carried out in the 4 partner institutions: Milano University (UMIL), University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover (TiHo) and Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven) as scientific partners and the Fancom BV, as industrial partner.