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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 to optimise marketing strategies on farm

Home \ Research & Innovation \ Research \ Production Efficiency \ Evaluation of ultra-high frequency (UHF) electronic ear tags to optimise marketing strategies on farm

Duration: January 2015-February 2016

Aims and objectives: To undertake a feasibility analysis to test the practicalities of using UHF technology on farm, integrating this data into existing management systems (on farm and at the abattoir) and using it to inform better management decisions.

The trial: The trial is looking at individual tagging of piglets so that performance data can be tracked on a pig-by-pig basis throughout the production system. Crucially, the project has also involved cooperation with a large-scale abattoir in which a UHF tag reader has been installed. This allows slaughter data to be sent back to the farm and attributed to individual pigs.

Expected benefits: The development of a low cost tagging system, allowing the integration of both on-farm and abattoir data, could mean that, for farms running day-to-day trial work, such as comparing rations, performance from different buildings or vaccination programmes, the data could be easily and automatically collected and assimilated into one place.

The easier collection and assessment of data and the ability to attribute it to specific animals would make carrying out on-farm cost benefit analysis a relatively simple and powerful exercise.

The benefits of UHF tags over alternative, readily available, tags include:

  • Considerably reduced cost (30p vs £1.40)
  • Easier to read in bulk, ie scanning a group of pigs will return all tag numbers
  • Easier to read from a further distance.

Findings to date: A standard operating procedure (SOP) has been developed for using the system, the key features of this include:

  • Tagging should be carried out when the piglets are first processed, ie day 1 or 2
  • The same ear should be tagged for all pigs
  • The male part of the tag should be positioned on the outside of the ear for improved retention rates.

By following the SOP, more than 95% of tags have been retained and were readable at the abattoir.

Additional Work: In addition to the original trial, approximately 1,800 piglets have been tagged and weighed at birth at the AHDB Pork Strategic Farm. These pigs have been followed through to slaughter where, in addition to the useful data they will provide for the focus farm project, retention rates will also be recorded.

Press release: Strategic Farm project yields positive results