Professional Slapper Tattoo development

Fully ergonomic design for the professional user in two sizes

Standard for pork and bacon 15mm 7 character

Plus for heavier animals and cull sows 22mm 6 character

Manufactured in the U.K.

A little background to development

Whether wielding an axe, playing tennis or using a slapper tattoo, it all depend on hand to eye co-ordination.

You don’t look at the head of the racquet, you keep your eye on the ball, knowing that you will hit it, even though you don’t look for the impact.

All this is possible because the raquet (or axe handle) is shaped to enable your hand to recognize how you are holding it. Your memory knows where the head of the racquet is dependant on how you are holding the handle, and the relationship of your hand to your body.

None of this works with a round circular handle. There is no point of reference for your hand to recognize. Therefore it is not possible to know where the head is without watching it.

Now, regarding slap marking, a circular handle is fine if you only have a few pigs to slap as you can take your time and be very careful. 

However, not only do you have to get the head exactly parallel to the pigs body to ensure equal penetration of the entire herd mark tattoo pins, you now have to do the other side before the pig has run passed you onto the lorry, followed by his mates.

Most stockmen ink the needles well, they get the slap number into the skin, and then days later the abattoir are complaining about illegible slap marks.

It would appear that many of these marks are very good at one end of the slap but fade away to nothing by the other end of the mark as there is no way of ensuring that the head of the slapper was parralel to the animals body at the point of contact

Another complication would appear to come when the head is way out of line with the handle. The best configuration seems to be when you are able to point down the handle to almost the point of contact.

So, while developing our Professional range of slapper tattoos we have put a lot of effort into the shape of the handle, the grip and its relationship with the tattoo head ensuring effective control and therefore legible slap marks.

Don’t take our word for it, just try this out.

Stand at arms reach from a wooden fence rail so that you can place the slapper head flat on the rail.  Stay exactly where you are. Give the slapper tattoo to someone else. Now close your eyes. Take back the slapper and try to lay the head parallel to the rail again.

The other determining factor is controllability and is how easily the tattoo needles penetrate the skin.

In the good old days of the pig fair we would have producers come and order a new slap marker, and when you asked them what code they used, it was unbelievable the amount of times they would roll up their trouser leg to show a beautiful tattoo mark, obtained when the pig had moved but they were unable to stop the swing of the slapper tattoo. Luckily there aren’t many sledge hammer slapper tattoos still in use.

Our “less stress” characters use narrow pointed parallel section pins at an optimum density to ensure a good transmission of ink while keeping the herd mark condensed.

The Professional slapper range offers  6 and 7 characters heads with character sizes of  10, 15,  & 22 mm height. They will all take slide in herd mark plates or individual characters. Character size use is dependant on age and weight of animals being marked.



When the news first broke in 1995 that new EU legislation was in the pipeline, Edward Holt decided to carry out extensive field trials to prove tattooing is the most effective and cost-efficient way to ensure traceability from birth to slaughter, and to establish precisely what were its practical limitations.

These trials involved evaluating the effectiveness of physical marking by ear and body skin tattoos.

Edward Holt already knew that ear tattoos would work on day-old pigs, but such marks are difficult to read and the need to look in the ear renders this method unsuitable for slaughterhouse use.

To determine the limitations of slap-marking, very young weaners were marked with an eight-character stamp using permanent ink and batch trials of pigs up to bacon weight were tattooed, as well as gilts and fully grown sows.

What Edward Holt discovered was that a weaner’s body is so efficient that it cleans most traces of even permanent ink from the skin, although not from cartilage.

Results showed however, that from 10 weeks it is possible and acceptable to slap-mark on the shoulder and expect permanent ink legibility at slaughter weight.

Edward Holt slap markers are particularly suitable for animals as young as 10 weeks, as they guarantee good pin-to-skin transmission of tattoo paste with minimal stress to the pig. They do this by virtue of their light handles and sharp, narrow section steel character-plate pins.

Character size used at 10 weeks was 10mm in height, and this was found to have grown to a character height of 15mm by slaughter weight, while still being perfectly legible. Usefully, this also conformed to existing requests by MLC inspectors to improve legibility.

At the same time as conducting its own UK trials, Edward Holt was also asked to supply tattooing equipment to DANI and MAFF for them to carry out their own testing, proving that the equipment surpassed expectations.

After these trials, Edward Holt concluded that, provided characters are fairly condensed, two rows of five characters is possible, while maintaining legibility from 10 weeks to the point of slaughter.

And because Edward Holt slap markers are smaller in area than old-fashioned markers, they ensure better transmission to the skin, irrespective of the inward or outward curvature of the pig’s body.

With the leanness of today’s animals, you need only look in the chiller at any abattoir for evidence of the ineffectiveness of old-fashioned markers.

Choice of ink is also an important factor, and through extensive live animal trials, Edward Holt has developed a totally synthetic slapper tattoo paste, conforming to current food legislation.  As soon as an animal becomes meat, the ink used to mark the carcass must conform to hygiene regulations.

Because of Edward Holt’s reputation in the UK, it was also asked to develop similar equipment for use on the heavier animals in the USA. These trials proved to be a great success.

That reputation has been well earned during Edward Holt’s 26 years in the industry. Prior to the revolutionary slap marker designs pioneered by Edward Holt, existing equipment was too bulky to control properly and too brutal for the leaner pigs the industry is now being called upon to produce.

There was a need for a light, durable slapper tattoo, which would be easy to use, which would not fall apart when subjected to everyday use and the occasional misuse, ensured long-term legibility of the mark and yet cause minimal stress to the animal.

Slap marking is an onerous, but very necessary task, especially when payment and disease control are considered. Speed of marking, operator comfort and animal distress levels must all be optimized, such that the stockman is still able to use the instrument as effectively on the 200th pig as the first.

Edward Holt identified key areas that had to be addressed if the task were to be efficiently carried out:

Edward Holt has now put together a collection of equipment that fulfills these requirements.  Tattoo plates have a large border to increase protection for the tattoo needles, which are parallel-section, tempered steel for durability.

There are also no practical limitations on the possible pin configurations on plates, with company logos, trade marks or foreign characters all being possible.

Edward Holt has proven beyond contention that physical marking is viable as a low cost and particularly effective means of identification. Its carcass identification equipment, used in conjunction with its live – animal tattoos, provides proven traceability from farm of origin to the packing plant.


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