19 December 1997

Chances of tail biting reduced by docking

PIGS which have their tails docked are three times less likely to suffer tail biting than those which remain undocked, according to a survey by independent research organisation Cambac JMA.

The survey* was sponsored by RSPCA and the Universities Federation of Animal Welfare, and based on incidence and distribution of tail biting at five abattoirs.

"The study has given us some useful pointers towards the influence of managment on tail biting," says Cambac research director Jane Guise.

Provision of straw bedding had no effect on levels of tail biting; liquid feeding encouraged higher levels of mild tail biting compared with pellet and meal feeding; and floor and trough feeding resulted in higher levels of mild tail biting compared with feeding via single or double space feeders.

"Undocked pigs are three times more likely to suffer tail biting – and this is in clean pigs delivered for slaughter, so the actual figure might be much higher than that due to casualty animals," explains Dr Guise.

Pigs that suffer tail biting are also more likely to have other forms of carcass damage – and this is concern both in terms of animal welfare and product quality, she adds.

"Tail biting remains an intractable problem and we need to do more research to find out how best to tackle it on farm."

*A total of 40,788 pigs were surveyed at five abattoirs during Aug and Sept 1997.