The slaughterhouse as a checkpoint for monitoring the health of pigs

How is the slaughterhouse used for animal health monitoring? The slaughterhouse is extremely useful for monitoring production diseases of farm animals. It permits lesions (caused by diseases occurring during an animal’s life) to be observed, scored, and recorded through postmortem examination. Such data can be used by industry stakeholders such as farmers and veterinarians to improve the health of farm animals.

Why are pigs particularly suited for slaughterhouse lesion monitoring?

Pigs are very well adapted to disease monitoring at slaughter for two main reasons:    

  • Pigs in modern commercial farms typically have a relatively short production cycle. This makes it possible to view lesions, which occurred over the growing period, at slaughter. On the contrary other animals such as cows have a much longer growing period. Therefore, many lesions which occurred in the earlier parts of their life are no longer visible for monitoring at the abattoir.
  • Commercially reared pigs live in close contact with one another, facilitating the spread of disease. Therefore, most diseases are transmitted at herd level. Understanding the health status of one group of animals provides useful information about the health of the whole herd.

Which diseases are widely monitored in slaughtered pigs?

Many lesions, important for animal health and welfare, can be monitored in slaughtered pigs.  
These include:

  • lesions caused by parasites, such as mange and “milk spot liver”;  
  • conditions caused by bacteria, such as enzootic pneumonia and pleurisy;  
  • traumatic lesions, such as skin and tail wounds, which can provide valuable information about animal welfare.  

However, of the many disease conditions monitored in slaughtered pigs, the most widely monitored are those of the respiratory system. Indeed, they greatly impact the profitability of swine farming and negatively affect pig health and welfare. Specifically, the two most common conditions monitored in slaughtered pigs are enzootic pneumonia and porcine pleurisy.    

ADAL – Automatic detection of lesions on slaughtered pigs

One of the main drawbacks of lesion scoring systems currently used at the abattoir is the time and expense needed to consistently apply them to large numbers of animals. For this reason, recently, interest has been shown towards the automation of such scoring systems. Farm4Trade is a leader in this field.

Together with the Department of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Teramo (UNITE), and the AImagelab, research laboratory of the Department of Engineering Enzo Ferrari of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE), Farm4Trade has developed ADAL.

ADAL, or the automatic detection of abattoir lesion system, is an innovative automated system developed using deep learning, artificial intelligence technology. ADAL is capable of recognizing and scoring respiratory lesions in slaughtered pigs through the analysis of digital images. It represents an important improvement in the field of slaughterhouse lesion monitoring.