Tail biting and aggression in finishing pigs are injurious behavioural problems affecting health and welfare of pigs as well as productivity of the farm. Despite many years of extensive research into the causes and likely solutions, they are still present on many farms in Europe. The key to a further reduction of injurious behaviours on commercial farms lies in the transfer and application of existing knowledge by the farmer for his farm, in a tailored way. Farmer Focus Groups can help with this process. Discussions between farmers and advisors will help to identify and understand farm specific circumstances, develop ideas for interventions, and monitor their effects. For that purpose it is important to develop a common language to define the pig behaviours farmers are trying to reduce, as well as objective and shared methods to identify and score them.
PigWatch therefore aims to develop and use animal based measures on farm and at the abattoir to avoid the pain, frustration and negative emotional states associated with the development of tail biting and aggression in finishing pigs. On the farm, early identification of biting problems will allow corrective actions to be taken before the problem gets out of hand. Biters or aggressors can then be removed at an early stage, or other causes of the problem addressed. This approach is pioneered in the FareWellDock project, and their preliminary results will be further developed in PigWatch. At the abattoir, animal based measures can be used to monitor the effects of interventions at farm level. They will also allow farmers to compare and bench mark the incidence of injurious behaviours on their farm. In the Welfare Quality® project this approach was developed for the automated scoring of broiler foot pad lesions. PigWatch will do the same for tail lesions of pigs.