With this funding, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be able to expand its focus on early disease detection using hog production technology.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development is providing $ 100,000 to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) for swine research. This funding is in addition to the $ 200,000 grant the UNL received last year as the winner of the High Quality Pork Award from Merck Animal Health. The UNL research project is currently underway and has the potential to improve individual animal care and surveillance practices as well as create savings in agricultural labor for the swine industry.

UNL’s research is focused on the early detection of disease, using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to monitor and track the feeding behavior of each pig. The UNL is developing a dashboard that would provide pig producers with real-time information on what an individual eats and drinks to help them identify sick animals more quickly.

The objective of the project is to apply the technology to a commercial operation in the United States and to evaluate its implementation within the framework of the farm. It would also be applied to a business transaction outside of the United States to understand all the global implications. The additional funding will allow the project to accelerate the integration of this technology into farms.

Tami Brown-Brandl, PhD, Professor, Dr William E., and Eleanor L. Splinter Chair, UNL, says, “These grants will help us prepare this technology so that it is closer to implementation. We take animal production to the next level. Detecting sick animals earlier means better animal welfare, less use of antibiotics and less impact on the environment. We believe that technology can help improve animal health and management decisions while saving valuable time for the animal keeper. “

Another facet of the project is the use of depth camera images to weigh pigs identified by RFID. The technology uses a ceiling mounted camera that takes digital depth images of individual pigs while drinking. Data is captured continuously and pig weight information is available daily on the dashboard.

“We measure the weight of individually identified pigs on a daily basis and can determine when they will be ready for market using real weight estimates, taking all the guesswork out of it,” Brown-Brandl explained. “This allows producers to sell uniform lots of animals at ideal weights. This will allow packers to specify pigs within a restricted weight range to reduce cut variability and inform the supply chain of a specified product.

Merck Animal Health launched the High-Quality Pork Award program in 2018 to support the development of new ideas to advance animal care practices on the farm. Through the combination of RFID technology and real-time monitoring, this research project aims to give pig producers the ability to detect sick animals earlier, as well as more efficiently maintain ideal weights in a consistent manner.

“This intersection of RFID tag technology with disease identification and animal weight gain is exciting,” said Miquel Collell, DVM, global technical director of pigs for MSD Animal Health. “This technology has the potential to provide hog producers with direct benefits both in the early detection of sick animals and in helping them market uniform animals at ideal weights. We are excited about the future opportunities that connected technologies could offer farmers, producers and veterinarians. “

“We are happy to support this project. The triangle of education, industry, and hog production, all in central Nebraska state, is essential, and the practical benefits of advancing hog production practices to support this important industry are everything. makes perfect sense, ”said Ben Kuspa, director of business innovation, Department of Nebraska. economic development. “We are delighted to provide funding and look forward to the long-term integration of this technology into farms. “


  1. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development is providing additional funding from a Merck Animal Health Grant to support innovative swine research. Press release. Merck Animal Health; December 14, 2021.