Is There a Link between Suckling and Manipulation Behavior during Rearing in Pigs?
Department of Animal Science, Ecology of Livestock Production, University of Goettingen, Albrecht-Thaer-Weg 3, 37075 Goettingen, Germany
Department of Animal Science, Breeding Informatics Group, University of Goettingen, Margarethe-von-Wrangell-Weg 7, 37075 Goettingen, Germany
Center for Integrated Breeding Research (CiBreed), Albrecht-Thaer-Weg 3, Georg-August University, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
Faculty of Agriculture, South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences, Lübecker Ring 2, 59494 Soest, Germany
Department of Animal Production, Agricultural Chamber of North Rhine-Westphalia, Haus Duesse, 59505 Bad Sassendorf, Germany
Agricultural Test Center VBZL Haus Duesse, Agricultural Chamber of North Rhine-Westphalia, Haus Duesse, 59505 Bad Sassendorf, Germany
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Michaela Fels
Received: 1 April 2021
Revised: 15 April 2021
Accepted: 16 April 2021
Published: 20 April 2021
Tail biting, a well-known problem in modern pig production, reduces pigs’ welfare and causes economic losses. It is influenced by several external and internal factors, such as housing condition, management, genetics, and age of the animals. Within the internal factors, the individual predisposition to tail biting is difficult to identify. In our study, we analyzed the manipulation behaviors of weaner pigs and their relationship with agonistic behaviors of the piglets during suckling to identify groups of piglets which showed similar suckling and rearing behaviors. In our experiment tail biting increased at the middle and end of rearing. Most animals were observed as both biters and victims of tail biting. During our observations, we found indications that tail-biting pigs showed mainly submissive behavior in teat disputes. These pigs might compensate their submissiveness by biting tails to chase other pigs from resources with restricted access, such as feed or enrichment material. Further research should consider more aspects of a pigs’ personality suitable for early identification of pigs predisposed for later tail biting. This early identification would allow intervention measures to be taken earlier, thereby reducing tail biting and its consequences.