Su Lin had conducted her research at Texas A&M for some time now and had grown quite fond of her research animal of choice. The University was very generous with granting her access to their prized pigs and allowed her to work in the computer operations group as a way to facilitate her research.
The University regents were somewhat dismayed that she had not published more papers. In their eyes good research deserves to be published. Published authors are good draws for new students and of course more donations and government grants. In fact, Su Lin had become so quiet in the published papers area that many of the regents had forgotten she was on campus, but Su Lin liked it that way. All an outsider could see was that she worked in the evening on computers and played with Franklin the pig during the day, every day. In fact no one was quite sure what Su Lin worked on from a project perspective.
Franklin and Su Lin had bonded the first day she came to the A&M campus to work in the animal husbandry program. Su Lin had suited up in her tall rubber work boots and had marched right in among the pigs to get acquainted with her test subjects, not realizing the gross error she had committed. The pigs naturally assumed that she was there to feed them and at forty-two kilos she was no match for a hungry group of eight pigs at one hundred, thirty-five kilos a piece. Once on the ground she could easily be considered the main course and would have sustained at least several serious bites or worse if one of the loner pigs had not come to her rescue.
Her comment to the pig, “Frankly, my dear, you didn’t get here fast enough,” was how he had earned the name Franklin.
Now Franklin liked his food too but just not off the bipeds who came to tend them.
Daisy Lu had come to the pens today looking for Su Lin and when she couldn’t find her she began looking for Franklin, knowing that the two spent a lot of time together. Daisy Lu was in the advanced animal husbandry studies program from the Philippines and had been assigned to Su Lin as an assistant. They each had their own personal misgivings about the other, but after a couple of semesters they’d settled into a routine that seemed to work. Daisy spoke very little and never ventured much opinion. She worked diligently at all her assigned chores and seemed to like being within close proximity to the Professor.
The program Su Lin actually worked on was how to increase food production from domesticated livestock. From a feeding the planet perspective, the overall goal was to produce higher quality meat from the same feed input, with higher resistance to disease, secure a lower mortality rate, increase fertility rates, and a greater tolerance to other members of the herd. If aggression could be lessened or even eliminated between the herd members then more animals could be confined in smaller areas with less damage due to fighting.
Su Lin had postulated that the use of computer sensors to monitor activity of the animals could provide better and timelier information on their health and reproductive cycles which should lead to better quality meat production. She was inspired by the very positive results in the plant farming communities that had been using remote monitors to keep track of soil moisture and temperature conditions. Data was collected in the planted rows and water could be administered when temperature and soil moisture reached certain levels. The big problem she ran into immediately was that while plants didn’t mind having a remote computer sensor placed next to them, the pigs did.
Pigs, with their relatively high intelligence level and naturally curious disposition, thought that anything that was wearable was soon the object of interest and quickly became a coveted object in a game of capture the flag from the one running. The little jackets outfitted with sensors and power sources for transmitting could be reliably destroyed in less than ten minutes. Franklin was her best test subject in this regard since his vest would last almost a week if he was kept away from the others. So test results could be gathered, but any answers this approach provided would not work in a crowded feedlot. She had concluded that the sensors had to be inside the animal.
Implanted computer chips for household pet tracking had been available for a while but that was only for location and identity. Nothing was available for biometric monitoring on the scale that Su Lin had postulated. Daisy had helped Su Lin with the monitoring efforts yet offered few ideas or innovations. That alone was not a huge issue for Su Lin, but Daisy often seemed withdrawn, as she was today when she’d shown up for work. The girl would speak her mind or not as she chose, thought Su Lin, as she went back to documenting the findings from the recent tests.
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