Clever Pig Lab

 

In April 2014 the Messerli Pig Project was launched and work started with setting up the main infrastructure. To give the animals the possibility to develop and train their natural social behavior in their everyday life, a semi-natural enclosure was built with a large (approx. 7 ha) pasture and a central, dense woody patch (approx. 1 ha) with a central pond.

 
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We managed to establish a large pasture with a rotational grazing system at the Haidlhof research station 2 near Bad Vöslau in Lower Austria. A good mixture of clover and grass, suitable for pasturing and highly nutritious, has been cultivated on the whole acreage. Divided in three parts, the pasture can be rotated each year to avoid hygienic problems and to offer fresh food to the pigs. The non-pastured parts are used to harvest hay and silage for the winter.

 
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The whole acreage is surrounded by a 1.5 m tall wire fence with additional electric wire to avoid contact between the Kune Kune pigs 4 and wild boar and thus preventing disease transmission. In 10 m distance within this fence, a mobile electric fence, which encloses the pasture of the pigs, has been built. This fence can be moved each year to a new part of the acreage and can be suited in size and arrangement to the needs of the pigs.  

Six comfortable and well-insulated A-shaped huts bedded with straw and wood chips have been set up in the small forest to provide shelter during the night or in cold weather periods. The huts are located at two separated parts of the forest to give the animals the possibility to avoid conflict but still have a comfortable resting place.

A well has been installed to guarantee full supply with fresh water. It has been equipped with a frost-resisting water-tap and can be used the whole year. Water from the well is stored in a frost-resisting insulated and heatable container, from where automatic drinking troughs supply the pigs with water. An additional tap can be used to fill the wallow or additional piglet water troughs if needed.

A wooden hut (4 x 4 m) provides space for experiments that cannot be conducted outdoors, due to used technical equipment. The hut is divided into two compartments in order to run two experiments in parallel. One compartment is permanently equipped with a computer-controlled learning panel and food dispenser.

 

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A container houses a small field office and a video-recording unit. From here, the animals on the pasture can be observed. In the test hut and on high poles close to the test arenas, wide-angle network cameras have been installed; they are directly connected to the server and provide a good overview over the testing sites.

Mobile corrals allow forming testing areas, each suited to the design of the tests. They also form the waiting area in front of the testing hut.

The pig lab is connected to public electrical power supply (with an 600 meter long subsoil electric cable) and to the Haidlhof IT system (with an equally long optical fibre cable).

 

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© Isabelle Grubert
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Clever Pig Lab