TailTech: Developing an early warning system for pig tail biting

Lead Participant: Innovent Technology Limited

Abstract

Tail biting in growing pigs is affected by many risk factors, but an outbreak can start without warning or obvious cause. This unpredictable tail biting results in pain and sickness for bitten pigs and severe economic losses for farmers: infection through tail wounds results in abattoir condemnation of meat. Tail docking of piglets is partly effective at reducing tail biting in later life, but is seen as an undesirable mutilation and its routine use is banned in the EU. Our innovative new solution to this long-standing problem begins with the observation that pigs hold their tails down before a damaging tail biting outbreak starts. In an earlier project, we used 3D cameras and developed machine vision software that automatically detects these changes in tail posture. In this project we will build on our promising early feasibility results to develop a prototype decision support system to give farmers early warning of tail biting. Testing it on diverse pig farm types in the UK with both tail docked and undocked pigs, we will assess its welfare and economic benefits for pig producers and breeders. There is considerable domestic demand and export potential for TailTech for use in pig production systems globally. Tackling tail biting and reducing tail docking involves a multi-disciplinary farm to fork approach which is reflected in our project team of Agri-tech engineers, animal scientists, veterinarians and pork supply chain partners.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

 

Participant

Innovent Technology Limited, Turriff

Publications

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