“This particular issue of tail biting is an enigma. No one has ever solved it,” says Robert van Barneveld Group CEO and Managing Director of the SunPork Group, the company leading a $7.8 million CRC-P that will use AI to save pigs tails, further enhancing animal welfare and industry sustainability.
Sunpork will partner with PIC Australasia Pty Ltd, Australasian Pork Research Institute Ltd, Australian Pork Limited, RSPCA Australia, Rivalea (Australia) Pty Ltd, the University of Melbourne, the University of New England and the University of Queensland to work on eliminating pig tail removal in the pork industry.
Tail biting is a confronting issue that is managed by docking pigs’ tails soon after birth to prevent potential biting later in life. It has animal welfare and economic consequences for the pork industry and eliminating tail biting will help ensure the sustainability of the $5.3 billion Australian pork industry. The CRC-P aims to give pork producers the confidence to raise pigs with intact tails while maintaining high standards of pig welfare.
The team aims to develop a model that will enable them to understand the causal factors so they can then find solutions. “There is a broad combination of factors that potentially contribute to tail biting, ranging from nutritional or behavioral changes to lack of adequate ventilation,” says Robert.
Amongst the range of technology solutions that the CRC-P plans to develop is computer vision technology that will assist in tracking behavioral changes. This technology could be an early predictor of an outbreak and help in prevention.
“People are concerned about where their food comes from and how it is raised. The investment in this CRC-P is reflective of that concern,” says Robert.
“Through this program we can bring all the necessary people together; the multi-disciplinary team that will be required to work out what might be causing this issue. No one working in isolation is ever going to solve this problem.”
Having generated $4 million in kind and cash to match the government’s contribution, the CRC-P is looking forward to solving this enigma.