1 March 2002

Salty pig feeds help to keep tail biting down

TAIL biting in pigs seems to stop when high salt feed is offered, but water supplies must be constant, reports Beds-based pig vet David Chennells.

Although unsure of why this should occur, Mr Chennells believes that instead of ingesting salty-tasting blood, the feed satisfies any deficiencies pigs may have. "Or perhaps salty food leads them to play more with water drinkers, instead of turning on companions."

One Norfolk producer has spent years analysing compound feeds for salt content to ensure 0.5%-0.6% inclusion. This has cured pigs of tail-biting. "If you add more salt they drink too much and pens become wet. But at lower inclusions, tail-biting returns," he said.

Researchers at MLC Stotfold increased salt levels in feed up to 1%, which did stop tail biting. MLCs Pinder Gill was surprised by how much salt had to be added. "But at these levels water supply must be constant, otherwise salt poisoning could occur," he warns.

Because salt poisoning causes the brain to swell, symptoms would be similar to meningitis, says Mr Chennells. &#42