Automated hog tattoo applicator wins award

BANFF, Alta. — A method to automate tattoo application on pigs has earned Daniel and Justin Maendel a prize that is coveted in the Canadian pork industry.

The two men from the Rosebank Hutterite Colony near Miami, Man., were co-winners of the F.X. Aherne Prize presented Jan. 10 at the Banff Pork Seminar.

They invented the Tattoo Master, a device that can apply tattoos to pigs with less stress on handlers and the animals.

The standard method for applying a tattoo is to use a manual tattoo slapper, placing a mark that can be read at the processing plant to identify hog ownership and track payment.

The Maendels’ invention can be mounted on most automated hog sorters with few modifications and can be custom fitted to others. Ink must be added after every 400 hogs, and other than periodic washing, that’s the only maintenance required on the stainless steel implement.

A hog enters the scale and once the gates close, its weight is measured. If it is at market weight, the Tattoo Master administers the tattoo, the gate opens and the hog goes to the designated holding area.

The device reduces labour and increases worker safety, the Maendels said in their product explanation, which was on display at the seminar.

“The Tattoo Master hits every pig with the same amount of force required to make a legible tattoo,” their poster said.

“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.”

The other winners of the Aherne Prize were Brett, Jamie and Carl Israel of Carl Israel Farms near Mapleton, Ont., who invented a device to protect piglets from being crushed by sows when farrowing is done in loose housing.

The system of plastic dividers provides a safe creep space for piglets under a heat lamp and away from the sow.

Piglet death in loose housing after farrowing can sometimes be as high as 50 percent when sows lie down and crush them. The Israels said the piglets can be trained to use the safe creep area within 48 hours of birth.

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