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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Machine learning algorithms can predict tail biting outbreaks in pigs using feeding behaviour records

Ollagnier, Catherine; Kasper, Claudia; Wallenbeck, Anna; Keeling, Linda; Bee, Giuseppe; Bigdeli, Siavash A.


Tail biting is a damaging behaviour that impacts the welfare and health of pigs. Early detection of precursor signs of tail biting provides the opportunity to take preventive measures, thus avoiding the occurrence of the tail biting event. This study aimed to build a machine-learning algorithm for real-time detection of upcoming tail biting outbreaks, using feeding behaviour data recorded by an electronic feeder. Prediction capacities of seven machine learning algorithms (Generalized Linear Model with Stepwise Feature Selection, random forest, Support Vector Machines with Radial Basis Function Kernel, Bayesian Generalized Linear Model, Neural network, K-nearest neighbour, and Partial Least Squares Discriminant Analysis) were evaluated from daily feeding data collected from 65 pens originating from two herds of grower-finisher pigs (25-100kg), in which 27 tail biting events occurred. Data were divided into training and testing data in two different ways, either by randomly splitting data into 75% (training set) and 25% (testing set), or by randomly selecting pens to constitute the testing set. In the first data splitting, the model is regularly updated with previous data from the pen, whereas in the second data splitting, the model tries to predict for a pen that it has never seen before. The K-nearest neighbour algorithm was able to predict 78% of the upcoming events with an accuracy of 96%, when predicting events in pens for which it had previous data. Our results indicate that machine learning models can be considered for implementation into automatic feeder systems for real-time prediction of tail biting events.


Swine; Behavior; Forecasting; Generalized linear model; Machine learning; Kernel functions; Machine learning algorithms; Tuberculosis

Published in

2023, Volume: 18, number: 1, article number: e0252002