BPEX blog

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

BPEX PhD student hunts for pig with best legs


Move over Elle Macpherson – the search is now on for the pig with the best legs as part of a new research project to improve the health and welfare of pigs on farms across the UK.

The study, being led by Newcastle University and jointly-funded by BPEX, was set up to see if we can predict from an early age whether a pig is at risk of becoming lame, simply by analysing the way it walks.

Using video motion capture – a technique similar to that used in animation for Hollywood blockbusters such as Avatar and Lord of the Rings – the team measured changes in the pigs’ gait, focussing on the angle of the joints and length of stride.

By assessing what constitutes ‘normal’ gait in pigs, the team reveals how the system could be used to reduce lameness, improving health and welfare on farms, reducing costs and improving sustainability.

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 that for a pig, a great set of legs isn’t just about looking good.

“Lameness among livestock is a major problem for farmers,” says Sophia, whose project brings together experts in pig science and bioengineering at Newcastle University.

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