Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The effect of docking length on the risk of tail biting, tail-directed behaviour, aggression and activity level of growing pigs kept under commercial conditions

  • K. Thodberg (a1), M. S. Herskin (a1), T. Jensen (a2) and K. H. Jensen (a1)

Abstract

Tail biting in domestic pigs relates to a range of risk factors, primarily in the pigs’ environment. Preventive tail docking is widely used, and various experimental approaches suggest that docking reduces the risk of tail biting. However, whether the docking length affects the prevalence of tail biting outbreaks is less studied, as is how a shortened tail will affect pigs’ social behaviour. The aim of this study was to investigate how three different tail docking lengths, measured at docking, as well as retained intact tails (Short: 2.9 cm; Medium: 5.7 cm; Long: 7.5 cm; and Undocked) affected tail biting risk and behaviour directed at other finisher pigs with the same docking length treatment. Tail lesions were scored weekly, as was behaviour at pen level after introduction to finisher pens and until a potential outbreak of tail biting or slaughter. Pigs from four commercial herds (258 litters) entered the study. Before the pigs entered the finisher section and data collection started, some pigs were excluded, mainly due to tail biting outbreaks in the weaner section. The risk of a tail biting outbreak differed significantly between treatments (P=0.001), with a lowered risk of a tail biting outbreak in Short pens compared with Undocked (P<0.001) and Medium (P<0.05), and was affected by herd as well (P<0.001). Pens in the Long and Undocked treatments were pooled for the behavioural analysis due to low representation, especially in the Undocked treatment. The probability of tail contacts, where a pig interacted with a pen mate’s tail, differed between docking length treatments and was highest in the Long/Undocked compared with the Short treatment (P<0.01), but docking length did not affect aggressive behaviour. Docking length affected the risk of a tail biting outbreak and the frequency of tail-directed behaviour in our participating herds, of which three reported a high prevalence of tail biting problems. Only the shortest docking length treatment (Short) reduced the tail biting risk, but did not completely prevent tail biting outbreaks.

Copyright

Corresponding author

References

Hide All
Breuer, K, Sutcliffe, MEM, Mercer, JT, Rance, KA, O’Connell, NE, Sneddon, IA and Edwards, SA 2005. Heritability of clinical tail-biting and its relation to performance traits. Livestock Production Science 93, 8794.
Brunberg, E, Jensen, P, Isaksson, A and Keeling, L 2013. Brain gene expression differences are associated with abnormal tail biting behaviour in pigs. Genes, Brain and Behavior 12, 275281.
Chambers, C, Powell, L, Wilson, E and Green, LE 1995. A postal survey of tail biting in pigs in south-west England. Veterinary Record 136, 147148.
The Council of the European Union 2008. Council Directive 2008/120/EC of 18 December laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs. Official Journal L47, 18 February 2009, pp. 1–15.
Di Giminiani P, Edwards SA, Malcolm EM, Leach MC, Herskin MS and Sandercock DA 2017. Characterization of short- and long-term mechanical sensitisation following surgical tail amputation in pigs. Scientific Reports 7, 4827.
Di Martino, G, Scollo, A, Gottardo, F, Stefani, AL, Schiavon, E, Capello, K, Marangon, S and Bonfanti, L 2015. The effect of tail docking on the welfare of pigs housed under challenging conditions. Livestock Science 173, 7886.
European Food Safety Authority 2007. Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare on a request from Commission on the risks associated with tail biting in pigs and possible means to reduce the need for tail docking considering the different housing and husbandry systems. EFSA Journal 611, 298.
Fatjó, J, Feddersen-Petersen, D, Ruiz de la Torre, JL, Amat, M, Mets, M, Braus, B and Manteca, X 2007. Ambivalent signals during agonistic interactions in a captive wolf pack. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 105, 274283.
Fraser, D 1987. Mineral-deficient diets and the pig’s attraction to blood: implications for tail-biting. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 67, 909918.
Herskin, MS, Di Giminiani, P and Thodberg, K 2016. Effects of administration of a local anaesthetic and/or an NSAID and of docking length on the behaviour of piglets during 5 h after tail docking. Research in Veterinary Science 108, 6067.
Herskin, MS, Thodberg, K and Jensen, HE 2015. Effects of tail docking and docking length on neuroanatomical changes in healed tail tips of pigs. Animal 9, 677681.
Hunter, EJ, Jones, TA, Guise, HJ, Penny, RHC and Hoste, S 1999. Tail biting in pigs: the prevalence at six UK abattoirs and the relationship of tail biting with docking, sex and other carcass damage. Pig Journal 43, 1832.
Hunter, EJ, Jones, TA, Guise, HJ, Penny, RHC and Hoste, S 2001. The relationship between tail biting in pigs, docking procedure and other management practices. The Veterinary Journal 161, 7279.
Kiley-Worthington, M 1975. The tail movements of ungulates, canids and felids with particular reference to their causation and function as displays. Behaviour 56, 69114.
Klein, JP and Moeschberger, ML 2003. Survival analysis: techniques for censored and truncated data, 2nd edition. Springer, NY, USA.
Kongsted H and Sørensen JT 2017. Lesions found at a routine meat inspection on finishing pigs are associated with production system. The Veterinary Journal 223, 21–26.
Lahrmann, HP, Busch, ME, D’Eath, RB, Forkman, B and Hansen, CF 2017. More tail lesions among undocked than tail docked pigs in a conventional herd. Animal 11, 18251831.
Larsen, MLV, Andersen, HML and Pedersen, LJ 2017. Which is the most preventive measure against tail damage in finisher pigs: tail docking, straw provision or lowered stocking density? Animal, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S175173111700249X, Published online by Cambridge University Press.
Leaver, SDA and Reimchen, TE 2008. Behavioural responses of Canis familiaris to different tail lengths of a remote-controlled life-size dog replica. Behaviour 145, 377390.
Martin, P and Bateson, P 2007. Measuring behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Mason, RL, Gunst, RF and Hess, JL 2003. Statistical design and analysis of experiments: with applications to engineering and science, 2nd edition. Wiley, NY, USA.
Moinard, C, Mendl, M, Nicol, CJ and Green, LE 2003. A case control study of on-farm risk factors for tail biting in pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 81, 333355.
Paoli, MA, Lahrmann, HP, Jensen, T and D’Eath, RB 2016. Behavioural differences between weaner pigs with intact and docked tails. Animal Welfare 25, 287296.
Pedersen, LJ, Herskin, MS, Forkman, B, Halekoh, U, Kristensen, KM and Jensen, MB 2014. How much is enough? The amount of straw necessary to satisfy pigs’ need to perform exploratory behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 160, 4655.
Penny, RHC and Hill, FWG 1974. Observations of some conditions in pigs at the abattoir with particular reference to tail biting. Veterinary Record 94, 174180.
Sandercock, D, Smith, S, Coe, J, Di Giminiani, P and Edwards, SA 2016. Histopathological characterization of tail injury and traumatic neuroma development after tail docking in piglets. Journal of Comparative Pathology 155, 4049.
Scollo, A, Contiero, B and Gottardo, F 2016. Frequency of tail lesions and risk factors for tail biting in heavy pig production from weaning to 170 kg live weight. The Veterinary Journal 207, 9298.
Schrøder-Petersen, DL and Simonsen, HB 2001. Tail biting in pigs. The Veterinary Journal 162, 196210.
Simonsen, HB 1995. Effect of early rearing environment and tail docking on later behaviour and production in fattening pigs. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A, Animal Science 45, 139144.
Simonsen, HB, Klinken, L and Bindseil, E 1991. Histopathology of intact and docked pigtails. British Veterinary Journal 147, 407412.
Statham, P, Green, L, Bichard, M and Mendl, M 2009. Predicting tail-biting from behaviour of pigs prior to outbreaks. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 121, 157164.
Taylor, N, Main, CJ, Mendl, M and Edwards, SA 2010. Tail-biting: a new perspective. Veterinary Record 186, 137147.
Ursinus, WW, Van Reenen, CG, Kemp, B and Bolhuis, JE 2014. Tail biting behaviour and tail damage in pigs and the relationship with general behaviour: predicting the inevitable? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 156, 2236.
Van de Weerd, HA, Docking, C M, Day, JEL, Breuer, K and Edwards, SA 2006. Effects of species-relevant environmental enrichment on the behaviour and productivity of finishing pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 99, 230247.
Zonderland, JJ, Kemp, B, Bracke, MBM, Hartog, LA and Spoolder, HAM 2010. Individual piglets’ contribution to the development of tail biting. Animal 5, 601607.
Zwicker, B, Gygax, L, Wechsler, B and Weber, R 2012. Influence of the accessibility of straw on exploratory behaviour in finishing pigs. Livestock Science 148, 6773.

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed