16AGRITECHCAT5: Early detection of tail biting in pigs using 3D video to measure tail posture

Lead Research Organisation: SRUC
Department Name: Research

Abstract

Tail biting in pigs is a serious and unpredictable animal welfare problem for farmers worldwide. It results in losses for
farmers of £10.4M a year in the UK alone, mainly from carcass condemnation. Before damaging tail biting begins, pigs hold
their tails down. This project will develop a system to detect these tail posture changes using a 3D video system giving
farmers advance warning of tail biting in time to intervene. We will 1) Collect continuous 3D video from pigs at a high risk of
tail biting to capture the changes in tail posture pre-tail biting, 2) Provide a detailed behaviour analysis of tail posture
changes and 3) Develop software algorithms to automate this. The project partners provide expertise in pig behaviour
(SRUC), a route to market and algorithms for automated 3D video analysis (Innovent Technology Ltd), pork supply chain
knowledge (Sainsbury's) video expertise and access to a network of expertise in engineering and precision agriculture
(Agri-EPI centre).

Technical Summary

Tail biting in pigs is a serious and unpredictable animal welfare problem for farmers worldwide. It results in losses for
farmers of £10.4M a year in the UK alone, mainly from carcass condemnation. Before damaging tail biting begins, pigs hold
their tails down. This project will develop a system to detect these tail posture changes using a 3D video system giving
farmers advance warning of tail biting in time to intervene. We will 1) Collect continuous 3D video from pigs at a high risk of
tail biting to capture the changes in tail posture pre-tail biting, 2) Provide a detailed behaviour analysis of tail posture
changes and 3) Develop software algorithms to automate this. The project partners provide expertise in pig behaviour
(SRUC), a route to market and algorithms for automated 3D video analysis (Innovent Technology Ltd), pork supply chain
knowledge (Sainsbury's) video expertise and access to a network of expertise in engineering and precision agriculture
(Agri-EPI centre).

Planned Impact

Tail biting is an unpredictable, costly, multifactorial problem for the pig industry with no simple solution. This project aims to
develop and validate the prototype of an automated system based on 3D video to detect tail position to alert farmers to when an outbreak of damaging tail biting is imminent, so they can act to prevent it (lowered pig tails, rather than the normal raised tails are a sign that damaging tail biting will soon begin).

Innovent Technology Ltd (an SME) will benefit directly from sales of the system once fully developed. Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd will benefit through their involvement in the project by gaining insight into the problem of tail biting, which affects their supplier farms but impacts on the pork supply chain, and also by addressing their customer's ethical requirements for good animal welfare. Pig producers affected by tail biting will benefit financially from the system, as tail biting results in considerable costs and waste in the food chain, primarily through condemnation of carcases infected via open tail wounds. The first to benefit would be existing customers of Innovent and Sainsbury's supplier farms (particularly those involved in the further development of the prototype). The system will work in any indoor pig facility, so will also be sold to other producers, in the UK, EU and worldwide. Pigs will also benefit through improved animal welfare (reductions in both pain from tail biting and morbidity from infections).

From a policy perspective, tail docking is widely used in the UK and across the EU, despite its 'routine' use being banned by an EU directive. Farmers perceive that they have little option but to use this (partly) preventive measure, however policy makers, responding to pressure from citizens, have tried to reduce tail docking (which is an acutely painful mutilation). For example AHDB Pork in the UK has published advice on enrichment materials and agriculture ministers from Denmark, Netherlands and Germany pledged to reduce tail docking in December 2014. Our product will reduce the likelihood and severity of tail biting, increasing the confidence of producers to stop tail docking. If adopted by UK farmers first, our system could boost production and give farmers an animal welfare marketing advantage in export markets if tail docking was
stopped.

There is growing interest in the use of technology to monitor and control various aspects of livestock production ('Precision Livestock Farming'), with various academic research groups and companies working in the area. In the UK, Agri-EPI will become a centre of excellence, bringing together a network of expertise in technology, engineering and agriculture. SRUC is involved in a bid for a Centre of Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), a UK-wide consortium of academic and commercial partners enabling the sharing of expertise and knowledge exchange. Beyond farming, the use of machine vision for automated real time analysis of video has a wide range of applications in identification of human behaviours (e.g. for crowd safety, detection of crime) or animal behaviours (e.g. in lab, home, zoo and wild settings). The time of flight 3D video technology used in our project has great potential in a wide range of applications.

The requirement to protect Intellectual Property may limit knowledge transfer at first, but once IP protection is in place, we will use various channels to publicise our results. Agri-EPI network will facilitate a cross-fertilisation of ideas and best practice with Agri-tech stakeholders. Other outputs will include scientific publications, articles to promote the product in industry publications such as Pigworld (and The Pig Site), and direct communication with pig producers via AHDB Pork or QMS Knowledge Exchange channels, and via the considerable existing customer base of Innovent Technology Ltd and supplier farms to Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Tail biting is a major welfare and economic problem for indoor pig producers worldwide. Low tail posture is an early warning sign which could reduce tail biting unpredictability. Taking a precision livestock farming approach, we used Time-of-flight 3D cameras, processing data with machine vision algorithms, to automate the measurement of pig tail posture. Groups of pigs at risk of tail biting were monitored, and we found that lower tails were seen before outbreaks (fresh tail injuries obvious to a farmer), were more common in outbreak than non outbreak pens. By eye validation of the machine vision algorithm showed that it was working well for low tail posture. Our findings demonstrate the potential for a 3D machine vision system to automate tail posture detection and provide early warning of tail biting on farm.
Exploitation Route We have confirmed that low tail posture is an early warning sign of tail biting which could be used 'by eye' by farmers to react sooner to tail biting 'at risk' pens, and prevent escalation to the injury-causing stage of the behaviour. Also, we have shown the potential of machine vision using 3D cameras for livestock behaviour measurement, which could be used for a wide range of application. Specifically, we (with an expanded consortium of industrial partners) will be developing the concept of 3D cameras for tail posture measurement to predict tail biting in a follow-on project (TailTech), with a view to creating a prototype of a commercial product to do that.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

 
Description The results of this project provided a 'proof of concept' for a follow on grant, with expanded participation from companies across the pig supply chain, including pig producers / processors, retailers, pig vets, an agri-technology firm, pig breeding company, a feed company and agricultural engineers. The follow-on project ('TailTech' funded by Innovate UK) seeks to take the next step with this concept to take it closer to commercialization. TailTech will seek to produce a working prototype of an early warning system for farmers based on 3D detection of tail posture. The considerable press interest in the results of this project and the follow on 'TailTech' has also highlighted to farmers the possibility of 'low tech' earlier tail biting detection using tail posture.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Health & Life Sciences Round 2 Project Title- "TailTech: Developing an early warning system for pig tail biting"
Amount £961,270 (GBP)
Funding ID 103945 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2021
 
Description Wider industry collaboration was necessary to win follow-up funding for this grant, and led to success in winning 'TailTech' project funding from Innovate UK 
Organisation David Ritchie (Implements) Ltd
PI Contribution The current grant is a collaboration including us at SRUC as an academic partner, along with Agri-EPI (Innovate UK centre of excellence) , Harbro (pig feed company), Innovent Technology Ltd (Agri-technology company) and Sainsbury's supermarkets. To win further funding and to further develop the potential of ideas in this grant, we needed to broaden our reach within the pig supply chain, so made use of our contacts to reach out to further partners.
Collaborator Contribution Pig breeder (JSR) will explore with us the potential for breeding against tail biting using tail posture and other automated behavioural data, a pig vet (Garth) will assist with farm recruitment and collection of data on farms, an industry body / slaughter plant (SPP) will assist with identifying the costs of tail biting to producers and processors, and the likely value of new technologies we develop in reducing this. Engineers (Ritchie) will help us to implement EID systems, to be integrated with 3D camera systems on project farms, enabling us to obtain individual pig data on tail posture and behaviour, which we will relate to tail biting prediction.
Impact We successfully won Innovate UK funding from the Health and Life Sciences round 2 call in 2017.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Wider industry collaboration was necessary to win follow-up funding for this grant, and led to success in winning 'TailTech' project funding from Innovate UK 
Organisation Garth Partnership
PI Contribution The current grant is a collaboration including us at SRUC as an academic partner, along with Agri-EPI (Innovate UK centre of excellence) , Harbro (pig feed company), Innovent Technology Ltd (Agri-technology company) and Sainsbury's supermarkets. To win further funding and to further develop the potential of ideas in this grant, we needed to broaden our reach within the pig supply chain, so made use of our contacts to reach out to further partners.
Collaborator Contribution Pig breeder (JSR) will explore with us the potential for breeding against tail biting using tail posture and other automated behavioural data, a pig vet (Garth) will assist with farm recruitment and collection of data on farms, an industry body / slaughter plant (SPP) will assist with identifying the costs of tail biting to producers and processors, and the likely value of new technologies we develop in reducing this. Engineers (Ritchie) will help us to implement EID systems, to be integrated with 3D camera systems on project farms, enabling us to obtain individual pig data on tail posture and behaviour, which we will relate to tail biting prediction.
Impact We successfully won Innovate UK funding from the Health and Life Sciences round 2 call in 2017.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Wider industry collaboration was necessary to win follow-up funding for this grant, and led to success in winning 'TailTech' project funding from Innovate UK 
Organisation JSR Genetics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The current grant is a collaboration including us at SRUC as an academic partner, along with Agri-EPI (Innovate UK centre of excellence) , Harbro (pig feed company), Innovent Technology Ltd (Agri-technology company) and Sainsbury's supermarkets. To win further funding and to further develop the potential of ideas in this grant, we needed to broaden our reach within the pig supply chain, so made use of our contacts to reach out to further partners.
Collaborator Contribution Pig breeder (JSR) will explore with us the potential for breeding against tail biting using tail posture and other automated behavioural data, a pig vet (Garth) will assist with farm recruitment and collection of data on farms, an industry body / slaughter plant (SPP) will assist with identifying the costs of tail biting to producers and processors, and the likely value of new technologies we develop in reducing this. Engineers (Ritchie) will help us to implement EID systems, to be integrated with 3D camera systems on project farms, enabling us to obtain individual pig data on tail posture and behaviour, which we will relate to tail biting prediction.
Impact We successfully won Innovate UK funding from the Health and Life Sciences round 2 call in 2017.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Wider industry collaboration was necessary to win follow-up funding for this grant, and led to success in winning 'TailTech' project funding from Innovate UK 
Organisation Scottish Pig Producers Ltd
PI Contribution The current grant is a collaboration including us at SRUC as an academic partner, along with Agri-EPI (Innovate UK centre of excellence) , Harbro (pig feed company), Innovent Technology Ltd (Agri-technology company) and Sainsbury's supermarkets. To win further funding and to further develop the potential of ideas in this grant, we needed to broaden our reach within the pig supply chain, so made use of our contacts to reach out to further partners.
Collaborator Contribution Pig breeder (JSR) will explore with us the potential for breeding against tail biting using tail posture and other automated behavioural data, a pig vet (Garth) will assist with farm recruitment and collection of data on farms, an industry body / slaughter plant (SPP) will assist with identifying the costs of tail biting to producers and processors, and the likely value of new technologies we develop in reducing this. Engineers (Ritchie) will help us to implement EID systems, to be integrated with 3D camera systems on project farms, enabling us to obtain individual pig data on tail posture and behaviour, which we will relate to tail biting prediction.
Impact We successfully won Innovate UK funding from the Health and Life Sciences round 2 call in 2017.
Start Year 2017
 
Description 3D Tails/ TailTech talk at Sainbury's Farming Conference December 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited talk at the Sainsbury's farming conference in London. Audience includes farmers (opinion formers), other food businesses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/news/latest-news/2018/opinion-former-farming-conference
 
Description Article for SRUC pig e newsletter Summer 2018 "Tail biting - using technology to help spot the early warning signs" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Wrote an article for SRUC's pig e newsletter that goes out to pig producers in Scotland.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.sruc.ac.uk/downloads/file/3762/summer_2018
 
Description Article in Aberdeenshire Press and Journal "3D cameras to save pigs' tails" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in the Press and Journal in Aberdeenshire (a major pig producing area), picking up on our press release of main project results.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/business/farming/1453524/3d-cameras-to-save-pigs-tails/
 
Description Article in Pig Health Today -Sept 2018 "3D cameras help limit tail biting in pigs" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Online article belatedly picking up on our press release, or on other media coverage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://pighealthtoday.com/3d-cameras-help-limit-tail-biting-in-pigs/
 
Description Article in The Courier newspaper -"High tech solution to pig tail biting" April 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article in The Courier picking up on our press release of main project findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/uncategorised/634060/high-tech-solution-to-pig-tail-biting/
 
Description Article in Vision Systems Design "3D Vision system monitors the behaviour of pigs" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article which picked up on our press release about main project findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.vision-systems.com/articles/2018/11/3d-vision-system-monitors-the-behavior-of-pigs.html
 
Description Farmer's weekly article- April 2018 3D camera could help cut pig tail biting, study shows 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Our press release on the project findings was picked up by Farmer's weekly
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.fwi.co.uk/livestock/3d-camera-could-help-cut-pig-tail-biting-study-shows.htm
 
Description Farming UK website article - April 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Online article following our project main findings press release
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.farminguk.com/News/High-tech-3D-camera-could-help-farmers-spot-tail-biting-in-pigs_49035...
 
Description Interview for IEEE Spectrum Magazine, August 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Interview over email for a magazine article.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/scottish-farmers-test-machine-vision-to-manage-pig-pugn...
 
Description Interview on BBC Radio 4 Farming Today, May 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed about 3D Tails work and pig tail biting by BBC Radio 4 Farming Today. Broadcast on 22nd May 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b39v0b#play
 
Description Pig Progress article April 2018 "3D camera can help reduce tail biting in pigs" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Pig Progress article picking up on our press release about project main findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.pigprogress.net/Finishers/Articles/2018/4/3D-camera-can-help-reduce-tail-biting-in-pigs-...
 
Description Pig world article April 2018 "High tech 3D cameras pick up tell-tail signs" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Pig World article picking up on our press release about main project findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.pig-world.co.uk/news/tell-tail-signs.html
 
Description Press release for end of 3D tails project, and launch of TailTech 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press release for project launch - was picked up by several outlets
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Stand at the BBSRC Innovation Hub at Oxford Farming Conference Jan 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Invited to attend BBSRC innovation hub as part of Oxford Farming conference. Demonstrated 3D technology. VIP visit included Princess Anne, Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of the newly formed UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Executive Chair.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.ofc.org.uk/