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Smart Pigs (2014-2017)

In the first half of 2014 we investigated a system with air pulses and water spraying to steer the manure and lying behavior of pigs. By steering the pigs in such a way that they will manure on the slats and lie down on the solid floor, the pens stay cleaner and the emission of ammonia will be lower. Besides that, the spraying will dilute the slurry and (partly) flush away the urine from the slats. The spraying could also be a solution for pigs that suffer from heat stress. During the study it turned out that the pigs behavior could be steered in the right direction within 24 hours. Besides that, the emission went down and the pens were significantly cleaner. Following some calculation the expectation is that this system will cause a reduction of 0,57kg NH3 per animal place (23%). The downside was that the spraying system used up to much water, what increased the volume of slurry.  

In 2015 an optimization research was done at VIC Sterksel. During this investigation the problem of to much water was solved, so the water use was lowered to about half of the use we set ourselves. By installing sprinklers with build-in non-return valves, the water can't go back in to the pipeline and the sprinklers can't keep dripping after the spraying has stopped. Besides that, the spraying only took place between 8.00 and 20.00 o'clock, according to a schedule that's based on the manure and urinate behavior of the pigs. 
The research into the air pulses at VIC Sterksel knew a lot of problems, which made that the system didn't work as we wanted at the end of the investigation. To optimize the system we decided to install only the air pulse system in a department in a pig stable in Ter Apel. During the observation we found out that the system doesn't work when it's activited by sensors. The thought was that when the sensors (movement sensor combined with heating sensors) doesn't register movement there are pigs lying on the slats and the system should give an air pulse. But when there are pigs lying on the slats there is always movement, because the animals always move something, like an ear. So this means that the sensors will never give the system a sign to send of an air pulse. To solve this problem we made the system work on a time schedule, just like we did with the water spraying. We made 12 schedules, so the degree of air pulses can be intensified when necessary. We also installed the option to add a little bit of water with an air pulse, to make the air pulse even a little bit more "annoying" for the pigs. The described system was installed in 4 pens, including one pen that has never been dry and within 24 hours after installing the system the pens were dry and the pigs (heavy pigs that were about to be delivered) were showing the right lying behavior. Also during the next round the pens stayed clean and dry and the pigs kept behaving the right way.  

In the second half of 2016 we started with the third part of the research and therefore we installed and optimized both systems in a complete department of fatteners at two different farms. Wageningen University did 3 measurments at both stables, to get more insight in the influence of the systems on the emissions of ammonia and dust among other things. For now the results seem very positive comparing it with traditional stables. The emissions seem to go down and the technical results seem to be better with the systems. In the second half of 2017 another 3 measurments per stable will be executed and after those we can analyse the results futher and determine the definite influence of the systems.

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