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Feasibility Study: Improving Floor Cleanliness by Using a Robot Scraper in Group-Housed Pregnant Sows and Their Reactions on the New Device

Institute of Agricultural Engineering, University of Bonn, 53115 Bonn, Germany
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Animals 2019, 9(4), 185; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9040185
Received: 27 February 2019 / Revised: 7 April 2019 / Accepted: 13 April 2019 / Published: 22 April 2019
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Simple Summary

A clean slatted floor in the animal housing is important for both hygienic and environmental reasons. In dairy farming, robot scrapers are used to support the floor cleaning process in the housing. As a result, the housing cleanliness is significantly improved. A robot scraper is equipped with various sensors and its own drive. A computer controls it. Taking into account barriers on the route (e.g., animals, walls, etc.), it moves at low speed over the housing floor and cleans it with or without the use of water. In this feasibility study, it has now been investigated whether such a robot scraper can also be used in pig farming. The faeces of pigs are drier than cattle excrement and thus more difficult to clean. Nevertheless, the robot scraper showed good cleaning results in this study. The sows accepted the presence of the robot scraper and were not disturbed by it. In summary, it can be stated that the cleanliness of the slatted floor in pig housings can also be increased by using a robot scraper. Since pigs are curious animals and investigate the robot scraper with their snouts, the technical configuration of the standard robot scraper should be slightly modified.

Abstract

Successful pig farming needs the best conditions of cleanliness in the housings. The present study examined for the first time whether a robot scraper usually applied in dairy farming is usable in sow housings for cleaning the slatted floors and improving hygiene and thus animal welfare. For evaluating the suitability of the robot scraper with regard to the cleaning performance (polluted surface area and occluded slots), the whole housing area was divided into score-squares, which were individually scored at defined intervals. Selected excrement quantities removed by the robot were weighed. In order to assess the animals’ interactions with the robot scraper, their behaviour towards the device was observed. Although the faeces of pigs had a firmer consistency than bovine excrement, excrement quantities of up to 1.4 kg m−2 were almost completely removed. Even 6 h after the cleaning its effect was still visible. Dry-cleaning led faster to nonslip surfaces for the sows than wet-cleaning. Within half an hour of observation, up to 8.2 of 120 sows were occupied with the robot scraper, but without harming it. The use of robot scrapers in pig housings is recommended, although slight technical modifications should be made to the robot scraper. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; livestock; mobile barn cleaner; modified cleaning robot; polluted surface areas of barns; hygiene of slatted floors; acceptance of moving objects in gestating sows; scoring of barn floors animal welfare; livestock; mobile barn cleaner; modified cleaning robot; polluted surface areas of barns; hygiene of slatted floors; acceptance of moving objects in gestating sows; scoring of barn floors
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Ebertz, P.; Krommweh, M.S.; Büscher, W. Feasibility Study: Improving Floor Cleanliness by Using a Robot Scraper in Group-Housed Pregnant Sows and Their Reactions on the New Device. Animals 2019, 9, 185.

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