Saturday, June 4, 2011

No more videos!

This past week marked a great milestone in my time as a graduate student. Since I arrived last summer, I’ve been assigned to video evaluation of pigs we recorded on farm visits. The main gist of the project was to evaluate a training program’s success in helping farmers learn to limit their pigs’ stress and thus to ultimately benefit the pig by lowering their stress level and improving the interactions with humans. There’s a lot of evidence that points to increased production value of animals which have more positive interactions with humans as opposed to negative interactions with humans and sometimes people just don’t quite understand what can make up a positive or negative interaction. Some things as simple as shouting across the pens to someone else can stress out an animal whereas moving through pens at a moderate volume level and occasionally gently patting animals that are in your way, etc., can help improve their interactions with the livestock caretaker.

So a part of this project consisted of us coming on farm, walking through the pens with a video recorder, and then me going back through later and counting the number of pigs visible in the frame every five seconds. Let’s review: We visit LOTS of farms and record pigs; then I watch the video, stopping every five seconds to count pigs. Yeah, I started last summer and have never caught up. Until now.

This week I finished video number ~130, each one of which took excess of an hour if it went right the first time. The whole time the camera view is being knocked back and forth by pigs on screen that ran into the videographer (not a fun job) so it’s a short matter of time before I got motion sick. There were weeks in the fall where I spent the whole week in a state of motion sickness and headache from so much video analysis. All of this was fit in between classes and other work, and on a time crunch because we’re trying to analyze the project data now. As much fun as that was, I’m very glad to have it done and the time freed up to help on something new. Projects need to be changed up every so often and that one’s been on my plate for over a year now.

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