Illegible or incomplete slap marks are causing headaches for abattoir operators and could, in future, see pigs rejected at slaughter.

National Pig Association regional manager Ian Campbell says while most farms are managing to mark pigs successfully, a number are failing and this could result in rejections.

“It’s already happening in Germany and there’s no reason why the same couldn’t happen here too.

Also, failing to identify pigs correctly is a breach of cross compliance and could mean a deduction from producers’ single farm payments.”

To prevent poor slaps Mr Campbell suggests regular checks should be made to ensure equipment is in good repair.

“Where slap pins are bent or broken they should be replaced and the marker should be kept clean to prevent a build up of debris.”

And having a suitable ink pad is also essential, he believes.

“Replacing a worn pad may cost a little bit, but without a decent pad it is difficult to achieve sufficient ink levels on the pins.”

Advance planning can help too, allowing pigs to be marked in advance of transport, rather than trying to mark pigs as they are loaded onto the lorry.

“There’s no reason why pigs can’t be marked as they’re selected for slaughter.

As pigs are weighed those fit for slaughter can be slap marked, while those failing to reach weight can be left unmarked.

“Trying to mark pigs as they’re loaded means they’re done in a rush and the quality of the mark is likely to suffer as a result,” he says.

Poor slap marks could also reduce the quality of the data available from the British Pig Health Scheme, as failure to identify pigs will mean vets conducting lung lesion scores and monitoring other health indicators may be unable to provide suitable data on pig health.

“This means farmers may not receive all the data they want from the scheme and herd health could suffer as a result.”

Taking time and allowing sufficient room to operate the slapper are also essential and mean farmers are less likely to suffer economically as a consequence, adds Mr Campbell.