Tail biting represents a major welfare, economic and ethical challenge to modern day pig production.It is a production issue of high priority within the European Commission. The prevalence of tail biting is high, despite tails being docked on 77% of EU farms.
Tail biting is multifactorial and often related to the effect of boredom and multiple stressors (e.g. feed availability, thermal environment, and health status) on pig behaviour via the tipping-bucket concept. The range of potential causal factors mean it is difficult for the farmer to predict when an outbreak will occur, and to determine why it has happened.
Monitoring the risks of tail biting and supporting farmers with suitable intervention strategies can be an important way to reduce the incidence and severity of tail biting at farm level. However, this is a hugely laborious task, as it requires continuous monitoring of the pigs’ behaviour and their environment, alongside expert judgement on what (and when) intervention is needed.
The TailBiteAdvice consortium have developed algorithms to accurately monitor relevant pig behaviours including:
- tail biting
- object engagement
- drinking behaviour
- aggressive behaviour
- feeding behaviour
This has been done using cheap non-specialised 2D cameras at lab-scale. We are confident that the integration of these algorithms will provide the capacity to detect an early risk of tail biting, and when linked with environmental sensing and combined with intervention-based decision support, will enable real-time prevention of damaging tail biting.
The overall aim of the TailBiteAdvice project is to develop a data-driven decision support tool that will actively advise farmers on how to reduce tail-biting occurrences. The tool will primarily use behaviour-based variables that are collected remotely with cheap 2D cameras during pig production. Through a multi-actor approach, we will then seek opportunities to develop this into a decision support platform that connects across the pig chain by dealing with data sharing issues that are typically faced in the European pig chain. The expected outcome of the final system is a lower occurrence of tail biting behaviour. This will result in a decrease in tail lesions and thus support production of pigs with undocked tails, according to EU legislation (Council Directive 2008/120).
Duration: 3 years
Running period: February 1, 2021 – January 31, 2024
The TailBiteAdvice project is aligned with the EU funded ICT-Agri-Food network (ERA-NET Cofund): https://ictagrifood.eu/