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Defra to work with industry on future changes to pig identification

19th Mar 2024 / By Alistair Driver

Defra has promised to work with the industry on any future changes to pig identification, including the possible greater use of electronic tags.

Pigs 2021The Department has just responded to a 2022 report by AHDB into pig movements, identification and traceability, commenting on all 48 recommendations made.

The AHDB report was commissioed by Defra in the context of the ongoing transition from the ‘aged and separate’ livestock movement recording systems – eAML2 for pigs – to the multi-species Livestock Information Service (LIS).

  • You can view the full report HERE

Pigs will be the third species to make the move, but it will not be for some time yet. Sheep movement reporting transitioned onto LIS in 2022, with cattle moving on to the service by the end of 2024, ‘to be followed later by pigs’, Defra said.

The service may have the capacity to either interlink or feed data across to update other relevant services. Defra said it will ‘look into creating a consistent approach’ to the registration process, but has not yet determined whether LIS will be the future system for registration.

LIS is being developed by Livestock Information Limited a joint venture between Defra and AHDB, supported by industry stakeholder group, the Traceability Design User Group (TDUG), which the NPA is a member of.

Among the recommendations, the 2022 report said, while using ear tags and tattoos is acceptable ‘at present’, in the longer term there should be a ‘move to electronic tagging of pigs from the time they leave their holding of birth to ensure full traceability unless the current work on DNA tracing or facial recognition can deliver improved traceability’. An economic assessment of introducing electronic tagging should be carried out, it said.

In its response, Defra said: “While the government recognises the opportunity this recommendation presents, any proposed changes will be assessed against the impact on industry, the cost of implementation and long term-benefits.”

It said the government will review the data currently available, including the AHDB-led project, ‘The End2End Traceability and Automated Data Capture’, which aimed to explore the value of automated data capture using UHF EID (Ultra High Frequency Electronic Identification) ear tags and maternal DNA traceability in the pork supply chain, specifically in outdoor pigs.

“The government will work with industry as it considers how pig identification may evolve over the coming years. That may happen as, or after, pig movement reporting transitions over to LIS. This may involve trials, as well as formal consultation and continuous ongoing discussions with the sector,” Defra said.

It added that several of the recommendations in the report will be considered in a longer time frame because their development is dependent on the transition of pig movement reporting data from eAML2 to LIS.

NPA response

NPA senior policy adviser Katie Jarvis said: “Given the threat that notifiable diseases like African Swine Fever pose to the national pig herd, it is vital that identification and traceability systems are used to accurately record pig movements.

“The NPA has been a part of the TDUG developing the Livestock Information System since its inception, and we hope that the new system for pigs will be a positive outcome for the industry.

“The NPA has long advised that it would be impractical to introduce EID for pigs. It is crucial that the new system does not impact negatively on the way that pig movements are currently recorded.”