Orders soar for Brazil pig-tending robot

Robots make feeding more efficient, but might also make pigs more relaxed by playing classical music

Sao Paulo – Orders for a Brazilian pig-feeding robot, which plays classical music while dispensing meals, soared this year as farmers strove to cut costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The machine uses linear feeders which dispense the exact amount of feed needed for each meal. As it works, it plays classical music, which the company claims reduces animal stress.

Orders rose an average of 400 per cent to 60 units per month, manufacturer Roboagro told Reuters in early December.

The robot reduces the presence of humans on the pig farms, and generates data that helps improve overall herd management, Roboagro director Giovani Molin said in a statement.

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In a report from Pig Progress, Molin said, “In today’s feeders, there is a lot of waste and a lack of management and information. The robot offers the farmer the opportunity to adjust his production according to market variations and input costs. It makes the business more competitive.”

Feed accounts for up to 75 per cent of pig production costs for Brazilian farmers who are facing a steep rise in feed prices.

According to Roboagro, farmers who use the technology can improve the feed conversion ratio of pigs, and increase animal quality. The robot can save an estimated 40,000 reais (US$7,792) per year per batch of 1,000 animals, it says. The calculation doesn’t include labour costs.

But why play Mozart, Bach or Beethoven while feeding?

Pig Progress explains this is based on several studies including one from the University of Sao Paulo, which showed “sensorial enrichment of the environment” leads to better behaviour, maintenance of growth rate and lower feed consumption.

Pigs are apparently not the only animal that enjoys a good concerto. Mehmet Akgul, a Turkish cattle breeder, reported that playing his cows classical music at certain times would increase their milk yield, according to a report from Turkish news outlet Hurriyet Daily News.

“If this music provides relaxation on humans, I thought, why wouldn’t it work on animals?” Akgul said. “I set up a music system and observed the increase in the milk yield. Whatever kind of feed you give them, the important thing is to relieve the stress from the animal.”

Roboagro says its robots are in use in some 500 farms in Brazil, including suppliers to large processors like JBS SA and BRF SA, which grappled with COVID-19 outbreaks at their facilities.

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