Search for pig to be a model to others

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Scientists have begun the search for the pig with the best legs to strut her stuff on the catwalk.

A project to improve health and welfare on UK pig farms has been launched by Newcastle University, using technology from Hollywood blockbusters such as Avatar and Lord Of The Rings.

Experts have filmed animals walking along a catwalk and analysed in great detail the angle of their joints and the length of their stride.

They used video motion capture to get an accurate picture of how the pigs move along the runway.

The aim was to assess what constitutes good gait in pigs, as compared to pigs that have mobility problems. The idea is to reduce lameness, which is currently a major problem in the pig industry – particularly in sows.

Presenting the findings at the 22nd International Pig Veterinary Society Congress in Korea, Sophia Stavrakakis, who carried out the research as part of her PhD, said: “Lameness among livestock is a major problem for farmers.

“Female breeding pigs are particularly prone to leg problems and this makes it costly for farmers when an animal becomes lame because of the time and money invested in the breeding stock.

“Using biomechanical motion capture we are able to measure the animals’ gait – tracking a number of animals to find the right angulation and locomotion.

“Through this we hope to be able to develop a farmer-friendly system that will allow them to identify those pigs with better legs, a trait that can be passed on to subsequent generations.”

Lameness is a good indicator of general well-being in livestock and is the second most common reason for sows leaving the breeding herd.

Animals which do not respond to treatment are routinely put down.