Tail biting and aggression between pigs are injurious behaviours affecting health, welfare and productivity. Solutions to these problems have been researched extensively. Farmers play a key role in the effectiveness of the ‘standard recommendations’.
The project PigWatch develops animal based warning signals to identify and, if possible, predict outbreaks of tail biting or fighting on farm. This will allow farmers to respond to problems before they get out of hand. It includes precision farming techniques for detection of behavioural activity, and lesion detection based on presence of haemoglobin.
PigWatch uses animal-based measures to monitor tail biting and skin lesion incidence through routine automated data collection at the slaughter plant. The data will facilitate benchmarking between farms, and monitoring the effects of solutions over time. The technology is based on the analysis of digital images of live pigs and carcasses.
The pig farming community will be involved during the whole project, which helps to develop and disseminate the innovative techniques proposed.
The project PigWatch responds to the pig welfare call, and aims to develop practical animal-based measures to avoid the pain, frustration and negative emotional states associated with the development of tail biting and aggression in finishing pigs. It will focus on measures for prediction on the farm, and for monitoring at the abattoir. Firstly, for individual farmers to be able to act quickly and effectively to avoid problems, it is essential that they can anticipate imminent injurious behaviour. This will allow for corrective actions before the problem gets out of hand.
Secondly, common definitions of injurious behaviour and common scoring methods are needed to benchmark the incidence of the behavioural problems across farms, and to help quantify the effectiveness of any remedial actions applied over time. Therefore, PigWatch will:
The proposal centres on the involvement of pig farmers via focus groups. These groups will contribute to the identification of practical constraints and potential solutions at the start of the project. They will monitor progress and provide advice during the development phase. Finally, they will test the tools over a prolonged period by using the outcomes to identify and remedy problems with injurious behaviours.
PigWatch will thus deliver (1) farmer focus groups, linked with each other through an international network, (2) on-farm automated methods as well as an observation protocol for farmers to identify imminent behaviour problems and (3) an in-line detection system of lesions at the abattoir.
FiBL will lead Task1.4: On-Farm application across countries. Leaf-lets on recognizing early signs of injurious behaviours will be creat-ed. FiBL will set up a Farmer Focus Group in Switzerland. Farmers will be trained to use animal-based measures to assess aggression and tail biting. In T1.1, they will help to develop protocols for visual scoring of behavioural warning signals. FiBL will contribute to T1.3 to assess lesions on farm with a multi-spectrum camera, and in lairage in T2.2.