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Automatic system for tattooing hogs

The job can be done properly without manpower

Here’s an idea that puts less stress on animals and the people handling them. And it automates tattooing, a job that normally requires hard work for people. The Tattoo Master designed by Daniel and Justin Maendel of Rosebank Colony in Miami, Man. is a shared winner of the 2019 F.X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production at the Banff Pork Seminar. Here’s an overview of their story in their own words.

Tattoo Master is an automatic tattooing solution designed to ease the burden of everyday hog tattooing while keeping animal welfare and legibility of tattoo as top priorities. The tattooing machine can be mounted on most automatic hog sorters with very few to no modifications, or custom-fitted to most others. The simplified solution means the only thing that needs to be done is add ink every 400 hogs. The stainless steel unit can be easily washed with a power washer when required.

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How it works

  • Pig enters scale.
  • Sorter gates close behind and in front of pig.
  • Sorter verifies the correct weight of market hog.
  • If the hog is market weight it receives a tattoo from the Tattoo Master unit.
  • Front gate opens and market hog gently trots out of the scale to designated holding area.

It is a well-known fact to all in hog production that tattooing can be a demanding and time-consuming job. We all realize the importance of a legible tattoo at the processing plant because it is the only way for the packing plant to identify our hogs and pay us according to our grades.

Tattoo Master was developed in conjunction with a hog processing plant to ensure a legible tattoo. Another advantage is labour saving and worker safety. Tattoo Master applies the tattoo automatically versus a person swinging a manual tattoo slapper. Swinging a manual tattoo slapper can be a demanding job and sometimes lead to long-term shoulder injury or other bodily harm.

Some other improvements were also noted. The Tattoo Master hits every pig with the same amount of force required to make a legible tattoo. Sometimes barn staff doing the job manually will use a little too much force or not enough to make a legible tattoo. There is also less stress on market hogs at loading time because of the stress-free tattoo application from the previous day.

Ideas needed for next year

The prize recognizing innovations in the hog industry is named after Frank Aherne, a longtime researcher and professor at the University of Alberta, specializing in hog production and management. He died in 2005.

“The Aherne Prize popularity continues to grow and is one that will be continued in future years,” says Ben Willing, associate professor, University of Alberta. “Innovation comes from energy and ideas and as delegates head home from BPS 2019, we hope they will be encouraged to enter their innovations in upcoming years.”

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