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Ben Williams

Knowledge Transfer Senior Manager

AHDB Pork Knowledge Exchange

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Evaluation of ultra-high frequency UHF electronic ear tags: Commercial growth trial

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Sponsors: AHDB Pork

Project duration: 2016 - ongoing

Aims and objectives

  • To determine the value of individually identifying pigs throughout their life.
  • Identify a way to increase weight to slaughter; improve market forecasting; more accurately determine time for ration changes; achieve early warnings for health and environmental control.

The trial

  • Develop a race system specific to pigs, optimally designed for ease of handling, speed and minimal stress on staff and pigs.
  • Establish the persistence of spray marks on pigs
  • Examine data from weighing in order to determine how marketing/ weighing strategies might be optimised.
  • Explore the use of UHF tags to track pigs through a system and determine if marketing strategies can be optimise via predictive rather than reactive analytics.

Findings to date

  • The race design has been optimised for the site and is being used as part of their system
  • The additional weight added to pigs by weighing has clearly covered the cost of additional staff time, although weighing is often a low priority job compared to essential stock tasks.
  • An interface has been developed to harvest data from scales and third party UHF readers, either handheld or fixed in scales and is being further developed for roll out to levy payers.

Next steps

A Standard Operating Procedure has been drawn up for a partner farm in order to UHF tag and weigh pigs from birth and at set intervals until draw. The data will be analysed in order to determine management interventions and best time to draw for slaughter.

Records from 750 tagged pigs at the AHDB Pork Strategic Farm were fed into a machine learning platform to create a model that will predict the week of kill using only birth data (gender, weight at birth, parity of sows etc), confirming scope for wider use of performance data for predictive analytics.

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