Special Issue "Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Pigs".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Anna E. Valros
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Research Centre for Animal Welfare, Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki P.O. Box 57, 00014, Finland
Interests: Animal Welfare; Applied Ethology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Tail biting in pigs is a damaging behaviour with a multifactorial background, and with widespread implications for both animal welfare and production. Even though the behaviour has been documented for centuries, and a large range of risk factors have been reported, the problem remains. We still do not understand the underlying motivation for tail biting, nor do we know how to fully solve the problem on-farm. Consequently, the vast majority of pigs in the world are tail docked to reduce the adverse effects of tail biting, even though this procedure does not abolish the behaviour.

Docking is not only painful for the pig, but also masks underlying welfare problems on farms. Due to a general trend towards higher welfare standards in animal production worldwide, there is a need for further information on how to facilitate an increase in the production of long-tailed pigs in the future. We invite papers from different scientific disciplines and with different approaches, on topics such as the aetiology of tail-biting behaviour; novel approaches to identifying risk factors for tail biting; understanding the consequences of tail biting and docking; and papers including socio-economical or ethical considerations.

Dr. Anna E. Valros
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • tail biting
  • tail docking
  • pig
  • damaging behaviour
  • animal welfare
  • animal behaviour
  • ethics
  • economics
  • social sciences

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Classification of Pigs with Tail Lesions from Different Farrowing and Rearing Systems during Rearing and Fattening Period
Animals 2019, 9(11), 949; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110949 - 11 Nov 2019
Abstract
The aim of the present study was to classify and characterise pigs with tail lesions using a combined parameter based on the frequency and duration of tail lesions and to find out whether biologically relevant groups could be separated by cluster analysis. Pigs [...] Read more.
The aim of the present study was to classify and characterise pigs with tail lesions using a combined parameter based on the frequency and duration of tail lesions and to find out whether biologically relevant groups could be separated by cluster analysis. Pigs (n = 677, 50% docked, 50% undocked) from three farrowing systems, as follows: (1) Conventional farrowing crate (FC), (2) free farrowing (FF), and (3) a group housing lactating sows (GH), were divided into two rearing systems as follows: (1) A conventional system (CONV) and (2) a wean-to-finish (W-F) system. Within 18 assessment weeks, starting after weaning, animal tail lesions were recorded individually. The animals were characterised into five lesion groups, as follows: (I) No lesions to (V) many long lasting lesions. The separability of the predefined lesion groups was checked by an animal individual lesion parameter. By using a k-means cluster analysis, it was shown that the docking status was the mainly affected parameter on the tail lesions. The separation of the groups only succeeded for the most distinct groups, I and V. The high impact of the docking status and the reduction of tail lesions by more space allowance was shown. More characterising information for the individual pigs would improve the separability of the lesion groups. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
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Open AccessArticle
Damaging Behaviour and Associated Lesions in Relation to Types of Enrichment for Finisher Pigs on Commercial Farms
Animals 2019, 9(9), 677; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090677 - 12 Sep 2019
Abstract
EU legislation states that all pigs must have access to material that allows them to perform investigation and manipulation activities, thereby reducing the risk of pigs performing damaging behaviours (e.g., tail, ear and flank biting). We aimed to determine associations between damaging behaviours [...] Read more.
EU legislation states that all pigs must have access to material that allows them to perform investigation and manipulation activities, thereby reducing the risk of pigs performing damaging behaviours (e.g., tail, ear and flank biting). We aimed to determine associations between damaging behaviours performed by finisher pigs, the related lesions and the use of different types of enrichment. Six randomly selected pens of finisher pigs were observed for 10 min each on 31 commercial pig farms in Ireland. All pigs were counted and the number of pigs affected by tail, ear and flank lesions was recorded. During the last 5 min, all occurrences of damaging behaviour (tail-, ear- and flank-directed behaviour) were recorded. The type (chain, plastic or wood) and number of accessible enrichment objects/pen was recorded. Chains were the most common (41.4% of farms), followed by plastic (37.9%) and wood (20.7%). Damaging behaviour was more frequent on farms that provided chains compared to plastic or wood. Farms with chains were associated with a higher frequency of flank-directed behaviour and tended to be associated with a higher frequency of tail-directed behaviour compared to farms that provided plastic devices. The prevalence of lesions tended to be higher on farms where chains were provided compared to wooden enrichment devices, mostly driven by a difference in the prevalence of mild tail lesions. Results support expert opinions that despite being commonly used, chains did not fulfill a role in reducing damaging behaviours and associated lesions in finisher pigs compared to other forms of enrichment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
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Open AccessArticle
Producer Perceptions of the Prevention of Tail Biting on UK Farms: Association to Bedding Use and Tail Removal Proportion
Animals 2019, 9(9), 628; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090628 - 29 Aug 2019
Abstract
Tail biting causes widespread problems both for animal welfare and in the form of economic losses in pig production. This study was performed to better understand the perceptions of farmers on how to best prevent tail biting, and if perceptions are influenced by [...] Read more.
Tail biting causes widespread problems both for animal welfare and in the form of economic losses in pig production. This study was performed to better understand the perceptions of farmers on how to best prevent tail biting, and if perceptions are influenced by the specific system of farming, with a focus on different levels of bedding use and docking different proportions of the tail of their pigs. Pig producers in the UK were surveyed on their perceptions of the efficacy of preventive measures and attitudes towards tail biting and docking. In total, 204 responses were included. The results show that producers rank the importance of preventive measures differently to scientists and other experts. This calls for consideration when communicating with producers; and for better integration of knowledge based on practical experiences with scientific results. The study also shows that the perception of how to best avoid tail biting differs between farms of different types, and that these perceptions might be influenced by the farmers´ own experiences—one example being that farms currently using plentiful amounts of bedding also value this more highly as a way to avoid tail biting than those that do not. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
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Open AccessArticle
Multi-Step Tail Biting Outbreak Intervention Protocols for Pigs Housed on Slatted Floors
Animals 2019, 9(8), 582; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080582 - 20 Aug 2019
Abstract
Solutions are needed to keep pigs under commercial conditions without tail biting outbreaks (TBOs). However, as TBOs are inevitable, even in well managed farms, it is crucial to know how to manage TBOs when they occur. We evaluated the effectiveness of multi-step intervention [...] Read more.
Solutions are needed to keep pigs under commercial conditions without tail biting outbreaks (TBOs). However, as TBOs are inevitable, even in well managed farms, it is crucial to know how to manage TBOs when they occur. We evaluated the effectiveness of multi-step intervention protocols to control TBOs. Across 96 pens (1248 undocked pigs) managed on fully-slatted floors, 40 TBOs were recorded (≥3 out of 12–14 pigs with fresh tail wounds). When an outbreak was identified, either the biters or the victims were removed, or enrichment (three ropes) was added. If the intervention failed, another intervention was randomly used until all three interventions had been deployed once. Fifty percent of TBOs were controlled after one intervention, 30% after 2–3 interventions, and 20% remained uncontrolled. A high proportion of biters/victims per pen reduced intervention success more so than the type of intervention. When only one intervention was used, adding ropes was the fastest method to overcome TBOs. Removed biters and victims were successfully reintroduced within 14 days back to their home pens. In conclusion, 80% of TBOs were successfully controlled within 18.4 ± 1.7 days on average using one or multiple cost-effective intervention strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
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Open AccessArticle
Prediction of Tail Biting Events in Finisher Pigs from Automatically Recorded Sensor Data
Animals 2019, 9(7), 458; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9070458 - 19 Jul 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Tail biting in pigs is an animal welfare problem, and tail biting should be prevented from developing into tail damage. One strategy could be to predict events of tail biting so that the farmer can make timely interventions in specific pens. In the [...] Read more.
Tail biting in pigs is an animal welfare problem, and tail biting should be prevented from developing into tail damage. One strategy could be to predict events of tail biting so that the farmer can make timely interventions in specific pens. In the current investigation, sensor data on water usage (water flow and activation frequency) and pen temperature (above solid and slatted floor) were included in the development of a prediction algorithm for tail biting. Steps in the development included modelling of data sources with dynamic linear models, optimisation and training of artificial neural networks and combining predictions of the single data sources with a Bayesian ensemble strategy. Lastly, the Bayesian ensemble combination was tested on a separate batch of finisher pigs in a real-life setting. The final prediction algorithm had an AUC > 0.80, and thus it does seem possible to predict events of tail biting from already available sensor data. However, around 30% of the no-event days were false alarms, and more event-specific predictors are needed. Thus, it was suggested that farmers could use the alarms to point out pens that need greater attention. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
A Review of the Effects of Non-Straw Enrichment on Tail Biting in Pigs
Animals 2019, 9(10), 824; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100824 - 18 Oct 2019
Abstract
Tail biting remains a common problem in pig production. As producers are reluctant to use straw to reduce this behaviour, we review studies on the effectiveness of other types of enrichment. Roughage, hessian sacks, compost, fresh wood, space dividers, rope, and providing new [...] Read more.
Tail biting remains a common problem in pig production. As producers are reluctant to use straw to reduce this behaviour, we review studies on the effectiveness of other types of enrichment. Roughage, hessian sacks, compost, fresh wood, space dividers, rope, and providing new objects regularly can significantly reduce tail damage. These results should be interpreted with some caution, as often only one study per enrichment could be identified. No evidence was found that commonly applied enrichment objects (processed wood, plastic or metal) reduce tail biting significantly unless exchanged regularly, even though multiple studies per type of enrichment were identified. Many studies evaluated the duration of enrichment use, but few evaluated the manner of use. This hampers identification of combinations of enrichment that will satisfy the pig’s motivation to eat/smell, bite, root and change enrichments, which is suggested to reduce tail biting. New objects designed to satisfy specific motivations were shown to receive high levels of interaction, but their effectiveness at reducing tail damage remains unknown. More in-depth study of how pigs interact with non-straw enrichment, which motivations this satisfies and how this affects behaviour towards conspecifics, is necessary to optimize enrichment strategies. Optimization is necessary because ceasing tail docking in a way that improves pig welfare requires more effective enrichments than those described in this review, or alternatively, better control over other factors influencing tail biting. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
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Open AccessReview
Rearing Pigs with Intact Tails—Experiences and Practical Solutions in Sweden
Animals 2019, 9(10), 812; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100812 - 15 Oct 2019
Abstract
Tail biting is a common issue within commercial pig production. It is mainly an indicator of inadequate housing environment and results in reduced health welfare and production. To reduce the impact of tail biting, pigs are commonly tail docked, without pain relief, within [...] Read more.
Tail biting is a common issue within commercial pig production. It is mainly an indicator of inadequate housing environment and results in reduced health welfare and production. To reduce the impact of tail biting, pigs are commonly tail docked, without pain relief, within the first week of life. EU Council Directive 2008/120/EC prohibits routine tail docking, but the practice is still widely used in many Member States. Sweden has banned tail docking since 1988 and all pigs have intact tails, yet tail biting is a minor problem. This paper summarises and synthesises experimental findings and practical expertise in production of undocked pigs in Sweden and describes solutions to facilitate a transition to producing pigs with intact tails within intensive pig production in the EU. Swedish pig housing conditions and management differ in many aspects from those in other EU Member States. Swedish experiences show that lower stocking density, provision of sufficient feeding space, no fully slatted flooring, strict maximum levels for noxious gases and regular provision of litter material are crucial for success when rearing pigs with intact tails. To prevent tail biting and to eliminate the need for tail docking, we strongly recommend that EU legislation should more clearly match the biological needs of pigs, as is done in Swedish legislation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
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Open AccessReview
The Importance of the Social Sciences in Reducing Tail Biting Prevalence in Pigs
Animals 2019, 9(9), 591; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090591 - 21 Aug 2019
Abstract
Tail biting in pigs has been recognised as a welfare problem for several decades, being referred to in scientific literature as far back as the 1940s. Today, animal welfare scientists have a solid understanding of the aetiology of tail biting. Despite this, there [...] Read more.
Tail biting in pigs has been recognised as a welfare problem for several decades, being referred to in scientific literature as far back as the 1940s. Today, animal welfare scientists have a solid understanding of the aetiology of tail biting. Despite this, there has been a major failure in applying research findings on commercial farms. Consequently, tail biting remains a significant problem in modern intensive pig farming. Of all farming industry stakeholders, farmers have the greatest influence over the welfare of their animals. Despite this, little animal welfare research has focused on changing farmer behaviour. Understanding the reasons why farmers act or fail to act to improve animal welfare is key if research findings are to be translated into practical on-farm change. Adopting the principles of behavioural science, this review discussed theory-based methods of identifying barriers to effective tail biting management. A guide was provided for designing behaviour change interventions for farmers using The Behaviour Change Wheel, a systematic framework that links the source of behaviour to suitable interventions. It was concluded that the social sciences are of great importance to ensuring that theory is put into practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tail Biting in Pigs―Aetiology, Risk Factors and Solutions)
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