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Ben Williams

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AHDB Pork Knowledge Exchange

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Evaluation of ultra-high frequency (UHF) electronic ear tags: End to end traceability trial

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Research partners: Cranswick(Watton), Wayland Farms,  Hellenic Systems Ltd., Woodhead Brothers/ Morrisons PLC, Frontmatec

Sponsors: AHDB Pork

Project duration: 2015 - ongoing

Aims and objectives:

  • To test the practicalities of using UHF technology on farm, integrating these data into existing management systems (on farm and at the abattoir) and using these data to inform better management decisions
  • To ensure farm to abattoir traceability of pigs, using UHF technology, to allow slaughter data to be sent back to the farm and attributed to individual pigs

The trial:

  • Tagging individual piglets so that performance data can be tracked on a pig-by-pig basis throughout the production system
  • Exploring the optimal SOP/tagging regimen to insure tag maximum tag retention
  • Working with technology providers to develop 'whole chain' UHF solutions, such as scales.
  • Working with abattoirs to install UHF tag readers to capture data from the UHF tags of these pigs sent to slaughter, allowing the abattoirs to provide individual kill data and potentially health data from the CCIR system

Findings to date:

The practicalities of using UHF technology on farm was first tested by tagging and weighing approximately 1,800 piglets at birth on the AHDB Pork Strategic Farm. These pigs were followed through to slaughter which successfully shown a 98% retention of tags during the process. Further information is available on the original trial summary, ear tagging standard operating procedure and video.

After some minor changes to abattoir hardware and processes, the system is now fully operational at the first site, Morrisons PLC (Colne).

Next steps:

The system is currently being tested on a second site at Cranswick (Watton) with support from Hellenic Systems Ltd. and Frontmatec with tagged pigs from Wayland Farms. UHF tag data will be analysed to confirm if successfully matched from farm to abattoir using DNA samples. Pig Health Scheme data will also be analysed to provide health information to producers to help inform management decisions.

Initial results will be shared at the Pig & Poultry Fair 2018 with a report due shortly after.