Tess Faulkner, from South West Ontario Veterinary Services,Ranking The Effectiveness Of Toys Used As A Response ToTail Biting

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The incidence of tail biting continues to be an important indicator of animal welfare in pork  production.  In  some  countries  the incidence  of  residual  tail  lesions  are monitored and scored at the processing plant. The incidence of tail lesions is then used as part of the overall  animal  welfare  scoring  for  the  farm.  It  is clear  that  tail  docking  is  an  effective  preventive measure. Unfortunately, tail docking itself is painful and although anaesthetics and analgesics can reduce the  pain  associated  with  tail  docking  it  does  not eliminate all of the pain associated with the procedure. On a global basis, there is a gradual movement towards raising pigs with intact tails.  Raising  pigs  with  intact  tails  requires  a comprehensive and well executed plan for tail biting prevention,  early  detection  and  a  plan  for responding to tail biting when it does occur. Researchers wanted to better understand which tail biting  interventions  provided  the  fastest  resolution of  a  tail  biting  outbreak.  They  investigated treatments to stop tail biting outbreaks in 65 pens of 6 to 30 kg body weight undocked pigs (30 pigs per pen; SD = 2). An outbreak, for the purposes of this trial,  was  defined  as  the  detection  of  4  of  30  test pigs  with  a  tail  wound.  After  an  outbreak  had started, a subsequent escalation in tail damage was defined as occurring when four pigs with a fresh tail wound  were  identified  or  if  a  biter  had  to  be removed.

Three  tail  biting  interventions  were studied in this particular trial.

(1) Straw (7 g/pig/day on the floor)

(2) Rope

(3) Bite-Rite which is a commercially available hanging plastic device with chewable rods.

Results:

  • Straw  provided  the  best  prevention  of  an escalation of tail biting (75%).
  • Rope  was  intermediate  (65%).  Pigs  engaged more  with  the  rope  than  the  Bite  Rite.  (p  < 0.05).
  • Bite-Rite happened to be the least effective in this particular study (35%; p < 0.05). Behavioural observations showed  that  Bite-Rite  pigs  increased  their interaction with tails between day 0 and day 7 (p < 0.05).

Take Home Message

  • Toys used as an intervention in response to a tail  biting  outbreak  vary  in  efficacy.  In  this case the Bite Rite was somewhat effective but there were better alternatives amongst this particular group of tail biting interventions that were analysed.
  • Straw in this case was the most effective but ropes  appeared  to  be  fairly  close  in  terms  of performance. Where the use of straw is more difficult  due  to  slatted  floors  the  ropes  can provide a good alternative.

Submitted by Tess Faulkner, MSc

Ref:  Pelant  Lahrmann  H,  Faustrup  JF,  Hansen  CF,  D’Eath  RB, Nielsen JP, Forkman B.The Effect of Straw, Rope, and Bite-Rite Treatment  in  Weaner Pens  with  a  Tail  Biting  Outbreak.Animals (Basel). 2019 Jun 17;9(6). pii: E365. doi: 10.3390/ani9060365.

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