A GRADUATE from Skelmersdale has received an RSPCA award for being part of a group that produced the best farm animal welfare research project.
Samantha Gilbertson, 22, left Skelmersdale to pursue her degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Shropshire's Harper Adams University.
The project she was part of involved creating a “sleep safe” system as an alternative to the farrowing crate used to house newly-birthed piglets and their mother.
Samantha said: "The sleep safe system has pressure pads underneath the pen, so you can get rid of the crate altogether.
"But if the mother lay down on top of a piglet it would set off an alarm and the farmer can come and lift her up."
Farrowing crates allow the sow to lie down and nurse but severely restricts her movement, essentially not allowing her to move at all. Samantha said: "The best thing for the pigs is to let them to move around.
“Farrowing crates are really not the best for the mother’s welfare.”
Since the number one cause of piglet death is crushing by the sow, Samantha and her group's idea prevents this while allowing mobility.
Samantha said: "Pigs are actually very smart animals, so after a few times of the alarm going off and the farmer coming around they will learn to get up by themselves.”
Farrowing crates are similar in design to “sow stalls” that were the standard for housing pigs for some time.
“They did not allow the sow to even turn around and have been banned in the UK since 1999.
Samantha was thrilled to win the prestigious award from the animal charity.
She said: "It was a bit of a bonus to win the award because we wanted to do well in our module.
"I was nervous giving presentations so I was sceptical that I was going to win it but being recognised by the RSPCA was fantastic because they do a lot for animal welfare."
This award is fitting for Samantha as her ambitions revolve around helping man's best friend.
Samantha continued: "I've always had an interest in animals and my dream is to help train dogs that have behavioural problems, to give them a second chance"
Samantha graduated from Harper Adam this year and hopes to continue her work to help animals in the future.