In Need of a Good Slap and Paste

17 May 2007, at 1:04pm

UK - Poor slap marks are too common an occurrence on slaughter pigs and UK producers need to get to grips with it or else they will lose this hard-won privilege.

Vets, processors and the NPA are seriously concerned about the situation because individual pig ID is a legal requirement. Some commentators have also suggested that processors introduce price penalties for producers who persistently send pigs with poor ID. They say that if the law is not upheld, then the EU could force UK pig farmers to tag every single slaughter pig and that would cost a fortune.

Buy your Pig Slap Marker here

But achieving the perfect slap mark is not that difficult, says Lincolnshire-based processor George Adams. The company has improved the ID of pigs coming into its premises by providing feedback and technical recommendations. Persistent offenders were also given special treatment - they were nagged constantly and urged to try harder. And a number of them will be invited to see their pigs on the line where they can judge for themselves the quality of their finished pig ID.

In February Geo Adams analysed the quality of slap marks on pigs entering the factory. More than 60 percent of marks were poor or illegible. However, taking a proactive stance has proved worthwhile and to date only 39 percent of marks are of poor quality.

Geo Adams has been monitoring the quality of slap marking for almost two years. Its producers have been receiving feedback using an MLC graders' rating of slapmark legibility for each load.

Each load is awarded:

  • GOOD
  • FAIR
  • POOR
Adams has also advised its suppliers to use continental ink instead of paste. Ink marks are more precise and remain clear throughout the slaughter process.

"We are now looking to convert the rest of the industry to use just ink," said Mark Haighton. The company has invited some of its contract producers to test paste on finished pigs. It is suggesting that they slap half a consignment with ink, and the other half with paste and the marks will be compared in the factory.

"We have been working closely with some 'slapmark pioneers' for some time and even the most sceptical now agree that paste does not come close to giving the level of performance that ink does," he says.

The only problem with ink, is that can go everywhere when the pig is slapped, so stockmen need to wear appropriate protection.

The best results are obtained when the slap marker head is immersed in ink between each mark or replenished for every pig. Some producers say that they get better results if the equipment is kept immersed in ink when not being used. 0 And producers should not dilute ink either, it reduces performance and as it's false economy, says Mr Haighton.

Based on Geo. Adams research, if pig-keepers move to ink, the UK's significant slapmarking problem will be halved at a stroke. .

ID is a critical element of quality assurance and traceability. It is also central to the success of the industry's pig health strategy. Producers must understand the importance of clear ID and achieve it, otherwise they could be forced to tag every single pig they produce by law. This is not only impractical, but would also add substantial costs.

Buy your Pig Slap Marker here