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