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Camera system could alert farmers to tail biting
Tail biting occurs unpredictably and can spread rapidly through the litter.
Researchers developing technology into early warning system

A camera-based system to identify signs of tail biting in pigs could help farmers prevent outbreaks, according to new research.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers show that pigs hold their tails down and close to their body when tail biting is about to begin. In a series of experiments, researchers placed 3D cameras above feeders to automatically measure when the pigs’ tails were up and curly, or held down. 

The study was conducted using 23 groups of
pigs that were regularly scored for signs of injury to their tail. Researchers monitored the pigs closely and put a stop to the tail biting as soon as they detected an outbreak.

Tail biting is a financially devastating problem, of which there is no single cause. Elements of the pig’s genetics, nutrition, environment and management are all thought to contribute to its spread.

When an outbreak of tail biting occurs, it does so unpredictably and can spread rapidly through the litter. Tail docking was once used as a measure to control the disease, however this is no longer seen as an acceptable solution.

“Tail docking of piglets is partly effective at reducing tail biting in later life, but is seen as an undesirable mutilation and its routine use is banned in the EU,” explained lead author Dr Rick D’Eath from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

“This research has achieved everything we hoped for. We can automatically measure tail posture, and we’ve proved it can act as an early warning of tail biting. The challenge for us now is to develop this promising technology into a robust on-farm early warning system that works on any pig farm.”

The concept is now set to be developed into a project called “TailTech” funded by Innovate UK. The project will gather data from more diverse pig farms and develop and test a prototype early warning system.

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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”