30 August 2002

Ways to limit losses caused by tail biting

EARLY detection and providing material to allow pigs to root and explore can help avoid tail biting during the summer months.

It is a particular problem in stuffy buildings during hot muggy weather, says Neville Kingston of the Garth Vet Group, Yorks. "Wasting diseases and overstocking also sometimes trigger biting, but we dont fully know what causes this behaviour."

It can just occur without warning and can be a costly problem with losses on farm or rejection of carcasses, adds ADAS researcher John Day.

"A good stockperson may see early signs, allowing animals to be removed. Placing offenders into straw pens seems to work at the ADAS Terrington unit."

Dr Day believes a poor environment is an underlying factor, which together with other factors, such as nutrition or poor ventilation, triggers the problem.

"While straw bedding is a good solution, more than 60% of units are strawless systems. However, one problem with alternatives such as toys is that they only occupy animals for a short time."

Research has shown that to keep their interest, toys must be destructible and chewable. But he warns that while toys may help, they are not a miracle cure. &#42