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Robotic Sow Grunts Like The Real Thing
A new Robotic Sow that grunts like the real thing stands ready to show pork producers how it can greatly reduce pre-weaning mortality.
Backed by 10 years of research and development at the University of Guelph in Ontario, the Robotic Sow is now being manufactured and marketed commercially under a licensing agreement by Farmatic, of London, Ont.
"It's designed so piglets are led to believe they're being cared for by a real mother sow," explains Elise Amyot, company representative. She notes that most hog producers lose 15 to 25% of their piglets before they're weaned, with between 50 and 70% of this mortality occcuring within the first 3 days of age.
"Previous artificial nursing machines have failed in the marketplace for various reasons. Their mechanical and electrical components were too complex to function adequately in a barn environment. And people who developed them weren't knowledgeable about animal behaviour. Consequently, the machines didn't properly simulate a real sow," says Amyot. "Our new Robotic Sow does. In extensive University of Guelph trials, piglets raised on it did as well or better than those raised on real sows."
Here's how it works: An electronic timer controls two heat lamps ù one suspended over the nipples to simulate the "udder area," and one over the pen's "resting area". When it's time to eat, the "resting area" lamp shuts off and the "udder area" lamp lights up to simulate warmth of the mother sow. Nipples slowly rotate from a hidden to an exposed position. They're flexible and piglets can nuzzle them like the real thing. The machine sends out digitized slow grunts to let piglets know is feeding time. They're followed by faster grunts whiff signal that milk has been let down.
This "let down" grunting sequence lasts 3 minutes, after which the grunts stop and the nipples are withdrawn. Feeding's over. The "udder area" lamp shuts off and the "resting ma" lamp lights up. A valve opens to dispose of any leftover milk and the nipples are automatically flushed with water. The 4-minute feeding sequence (1 minute without grunts and 3 minutes with grunts) is repeated every hour, 24 hours a day.
Other key features include:
• The refrigerated tank above the nipples is filled daily with enough milk replacer to last 24 hours. At regular intervals, the replacer is stirred to prevent sedimentation. Only the amount needed for each feeding is warmed up.
•    Low voltage electronics (12 volts) control the system.
•    The unit (34 in. high, 36 in. wide and 20 in. deep) has a non-corrosive plastic body.
•    Piglets can be placed on the machine at 12 to 24 hours of age, preferably after eating the sow's colostrum milk. If none is avail-able, milk replacer with antibiotics can be fed to piglets immediately after birth. One 16-nipple unit serves 75 to 100 sows.
A Robotic Sow with 16 nipples (8 per side) sells for $8,900 (Canadian).
For more information, contact FARM SHOW Followup, Farmatic Inc., 45 Meg Drive, London, Cut. N6E 2V2 (ph 519 686-7881).

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1988 - Volume #12, Issue #2