In the mood

By Alison Motluk AN automatic oestrus detector could soon be helping to take the mystery out of mating for commercial pig farmers. Working out which sow is in oestrus can take up to a third of a pig farmer’s day. The method they use, the “standing reflex” test, involves pressing down on a sow’s back. If she jumps away, she is not receptive. But if she stays put and allows the farmer to press, she is probably in the mood. Now Stefan Godrie, Louis Freson and their colleagues at the Catholic University of Leuven have developed an automatic oestrus detector. They took motion detectors from household burglar alarms and modified them to monitor movement continuously. The sensors were then fixed half a metre above individually housed sows. “When she moves in the box, we measure her activity,
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