Photo: Colourbox.com

LED lamps to provide better welfare in pig farms

Tuesday 23 May 17

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Jette Jakobsen
Senior scientist
National Food Institute
+45 20 25 91 92

LED lamps that give pigs an extra dose of vitamin D are being designed with the aim of reducing mortality in piglets and increasing welfare in sows during pregnancy. This can in turn improve the farmers’ economy. The lamps are being developed in a project headed by the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark. The project has received more than 940,000 euros in support from the Green Development and Demonstration Programme, GUDP.

Piglets are born with low levels of vitamin D. During the first three weeks, the sows’ milk is the only food piglets will get and the milk contains only minimal amounts of vitamin D. Approximately nine million piglets die annually in Denmark while during farrowing or weaning.

Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight can create the vitamin in the skin of humans and animals. As such, in a project headed by the National Food Institute, researchers will design an LED lamp with invisible UV light, which can produce vitamin D in the skin of piglets. The lamps aim to improve the piglets’ health and reduce mortality.

The researchers will decide on the lamps’ visible spectrum of light based on knowledge of how pigs experience light, to ensure that it is particularly beneficial for the sows during pregnancy and farrowing.

Better sustainability and economy 

Previous studies have shown that UV light can increase piglets’ level of vitamin D. However, the current UV lamps on the market are designed for terrariums and cannot be used in pig production as they consume too much energy and are not sufficiently effective at increasing the piglets’ vitamin D levels.

However, the development in LED technology has prolonged the life of the lamps and reduced their energy consumption and price. Therefore, project partners expect that it is possible to produce and sell the lamps, which the project will develop.

The prototype they develop will be tested in a piglet farmer’s barns. The partners expect that the lamp will both give the farmer an economic gain through energy savings but also an animal welfare advantage because more piglets will survive. 

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The four-year project has received a grant of more than 940,000 euros from the Danish Green Development and Demonstration Programme, GUDP under the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food.

In addition to the National Food Institute, the other project partners are DTU Fotonik, University of Copenhagen’s Department of Large Animal Sciences and the university’s Department of Food and Resource Economics , Photocat A/S and Kongsdal Multisite A/S.

Read more about the National Food Institute’s research into vitamins on the institute’s website.

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