Tail docking performed in order to avoid tail biting in fattening pigs is criticized. In order to assess its short term consequences, two experiments were realized. The first one performed on 160 piglets from 32 litters was focussed on the behavioural consequences and the growth performance. The aim of the second one was to determine the effects of tail docking on the adrenal (plasma cortisol and ACTH) and sympathetic (measurement of glucose and lactate released from catecholamine-induced mobilization of glycogen) axes in 20 piglets from 7 litters which were catheterized at birth. In the first experiment, there were 5 treatments: tail docking, tail docking + a cold analgesic spray, control handling, control handling + spray, no handling. In the second experiment, the same treatments were run, except the fourth one. Treatments were applied the day after birth and tail was docked with an iron docking (cautery). During treatment, tail docking caused more movements (legs and/or body) and howls (P < 0.05). During the 20 s following treatment, docked piglets demonstrated more tail jamming and wagging (P < 0.05). Both types of docking consequences were attenuated when the cold spray was used. During the following 12 hours, time spent by the piglets to rest or to be active at the sow udder was similar in the 5 groups. Growth rate during the first week of life and the occurrence of injuries at the tail did not differ between groups (P > 0.1). Tail docking with or without the cold spray had no marked effects on the patterns of plasma cortisol, ACTH, glucose and lactate. In conclusion, tail docking causes probably pain of moderate amplitude.
Tail docking is still applied in Europe to prevent tail biting, despite its evident negative impact on pig welfare. We aimed at characterising consequences of tail docking on suckling piglets. We compared 48 piglets with tail docked (C) to 50 undocked piglets submitted to a non-painful simulation of docking (S). Their behavioural reaction during docking and for 20 s following the process was observed: vocalisations, tail posture and movements. Observations were repeated on C animals and on 48 other animals left intact from birth (I), 4 h after the docking process, 3 days after and once a week, in addition giving a score to the state of the tail. Fifteen days after birth, their reaction to a motionless seated human was observed. The C piglets vocalised more and louder during the docking process than S piglets (P < 0.05). For the 20 s after docking, their tail remained immobile longer (P < 0.05). The tail was also more immobile during the whole suckling period (P < 0.05). The C piglets approached the unfamiliar human later than the I piglets (P < 0.05). The I piglets tended to have more tail lesions than the C group (P < 0.1) during suckling. Tail docking thus induces reactions indicating pain on the day of docking and throughout the suckling period. Evidence of first episodes of tail biting were also found in I pigs. Longer term effects remain to be characterised (pain and bitings).
This study examined effects of the amount of straw offered on occurrence and severity of gastric lesions in pigs kept in pens (18 pigs, 0.7m(2)/pig) with partly slatted flooring and 10, 500 or 1000g straw/pig/day from 30kg live weight. The pigs had ad libitum access to dry feed. Forty-five pigs were used, three from each of 15 pens. After euthanisia, the dimension of the non-glandular region of the stomach was measured. Lesions were characterized and scored. Irrespective of straw provided, 67% of the pigs showed signs of gastric pathology. Pigs provided with 500 or 1000g straw were pooled as ‘permanent access’. The proportion of pigs with ulcerations was reduced by permanent access to straw (7 vs. 33%; P<0.05), suggesting that permanent access to straw may improve animal health, and be considered as one possible strategy to limit gastric ulceration in pigs.
In boars, sexually motivated mounting can not only cause problems such as lameness, but penile injuries are also reported. The relevance of penis biting in boars is discussed controversially, but reliable data is missing. In the present study, boars ( n = 435) and barrows ( n = 85) from experimental farms were therefore evaluated for scars, fresh wounds and severe injuries of the penis. Similarly, 321 boars from 11 farms specializing in pork production with boars, and 15 sexually mature wild boars from the hunting season of 2015/16 were included in the study. In domestic boars, a high incidence of penile injuries was obvious (76.6%-87.0% of animals with scars and/or wounds at experimental farms, 64.0%-94.9% at commercial farms). The number of boars with severe injuries was in a similar range in both groups (7.3% vs. 9.3%). At commercial farms, the number of scars but not that of fresh wounds increased per animal with age by 0.3 per week. Moreover, raising boars in mixed groups led to about a 1.5 times higher number of scars than in single-sex groups. In wild boars, a considerable proportion of animals (40%) revealed penile injuries, which were even severe in three animals. We therefore conclude that penis biting is a highly relevant and severe welfare problem in the male pig population, but this phenomenon is not limited to intensive production systems.
In commerical pig production penis biting is a problem of intact boars. The examined barrows were all free of scars, wounds, severe injuries or suppuration.
For pictures of just how severe penis biting in pigs can be see the article Penisbeissen ein blutiges Phanomen in der Ebermast.
The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between tail lesions, cold carcass weight, and viscera condemnations in an Irish abattoir. The following data were collected at the evisceration point from every third pig slaughtered over 7 days: farm identification, sex, tail lesion score, viscera inspection outcome, and cold carcass weight. Tail lesions were scored according to a 5-point scale. Disease lesions responsible for lung (pleurisy, pneumonia, and abscess), heart (pericarditis), and liver (ascariasis) condemnation were recorded based on the decision of the veterinary inspector (VI). Data on 3,143 pigs from 61 batches were available. The relationship between disease lesions, tail lesion score, and cold carcass weight was studied at individual carcass level, while the relationship between disease lesions and tail lesion score was studied at both carcass and batch level. Tail lesions (score ≥1) were found in 72% of the study population, with 2.3% affected by severe tail lesions (scores ≥3). Pleurisy (13.7%) followed by pneumonia (10.4%) showed the highest prevalence, whereas the prevalence of ascariasis showed the greatest variation between batches (0-75%). Tail lesion score, pleurisy, pleuropneumonia, and pericarditis were associated with reductions in carcass cold weight (P ≤ 0.05) ranging from 3 to 6.6 kg. Tail lesion score was associated with condemnations for pleurisy, pneumonia, and pleuropneumonia (P ≤ 0.05) at a batch level. VI shift was associated with condemnations for pneumonia, pleuropneumonia, and pericarditis (P ≤ 0.05) at a carcass level and with pneumonia at a batch level. Sex was not associated with viscera condemnations but males were more likely to be affected by tail lesions. The relationship between overall tail lesion score and the lung diseases at batch level supports the relationship between poor health and poor welfare of pigs on farms. The inclusion of tail lesion scores at post-mortem meat inspection should be considered as a health and welfare diagnostic tool.
The question of tail docking in pigs is an ongoing problem despite the fact that it should have been solved long ago. In the Council Directive 2008/120/EC it is clearly stated that routine tail docking in pigs are prohibited and enrichment materials for the pigs must be provided, which is in line with the high animal welfare standards that the European Union aim for. This directive is in force in all member states. The habit of tail docking is widespread as a simple comparison by two reports by EFSA shows. We present these results together with results showing that some countries, like Sweden, Finland and Lithuania manage to still keep their production without tail docking routinely. We therefore suggest that the gap between the strong intentions of prohibiting tail docking in the directive and the weak (or non-existent) enforcement of it in most countries in the EU needs to be closed. Of the arguments saying that this will be a troublesome task, we will here focus on two of them. The first is that the directive is unclear or actually allows tail docking. The second is that the habit of routine tail docking is economically profitable. Both these arguments will not hold. There are three ways to bridge the gap. The first is to lower the threshold, lowering the animal welfare level in the directive. We believe strongly that this solution is contradictory to the trend in today’s legislation about animals and not in line with the Lisbon treaty. The second is to demand stronger enforcement which is in line with the EU Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015. The third is to accept that different countries will not enforce the directive, then leaving it to the consumer to choose between more or less animal friendly pork. EU seems to adopt this way in contrast to the EU AW Strategy. To properly inform consumers about animal welfare is a good help although it demands a lot of resources and is a rather slow process. Therefore, in order to have a rapid solution to the gap one need to have a stronger enforcement of the law.
Introduction Many health and welfare problems in modern livestock production are multifactorial problems which require innovative solutions, such as novel risk assessment and management tools. However, the best way to distribute such novel – and usually complex – tools to the key applicants still has to be discussed. Materials and methods This paper shares experiences from distributing a novel tail biting prevention tool (‘SchwIP’) to 115 farm advisers and 19 veterinarians in 23 one-day workshops. Participants gave written and oral feedback at the end of the workshops, which was later analysed together with the number of farms they had visited after the workshops. Workshop groups were categorised into groups showing (a) HIGH, (b) INTermediate or (c) LOW levels of antagonism against SchwIP or parts of it during workshop discussions. Results Group types did not significantly differ in their evaluation of knowledge transfer. However, HIGH group members evaluated the on-farm usability of the tool significantly lower in the workshop feedback and tended to visit fewer farms. Conclusions As antagonistic discussion can influence workshop output, future workshop leaders should strive for basic communication training as well as some group leadership experience before setting up and leading workshops.
• We modelled voluntary feed intake in clinically lame or tail bitten pigs.
• Age, sex, diagnosis, initial weight and eventual recovery affects feed intake.
• Feed intake starts decreasing 2–3 weeks before diagnosis.
• Feed intake decreases 10–99% from control levels in sick pigs.
• Anorexia is prolonged in lame animals not recovering to slaughter condition.
A decreased feed intake is considered one of the first signs of disease in farm animals. Feeding-related individual data collected by electronic feeding systems may thus be useful in detecting illness at an early stage. The aim of this study was to determine changes in individual-level voluntary feed intake in growing pigs before and after a bout of sickness modelled by clinical lameness or an acute tail (biting) lesion, which together count for a significant part of overall health problems in intensive pig production. The data consisted of individual records of health and day-level feed intake in fattening pigs between about 40 and 120 kg obtained from the Finnish progeny test farm. Feed was available ad libitum from automatic single-space feeders. Two time periods in relation to diagnosis (day 0), day −50 to 0 (pre-) and day 0 to +50 (post-), were modelled separately for both diagnoses using hierarchical linear models with random and repeated effects. All healthy animals in the affected animals’ pens were used as controls. The number of pigs in the different analyses were 243/551 (cases/controls, pre-tail lesion), 205/693 (post-tail lesion), 116/588 (pre-lameness) and 165/892 (post-lameness).
Feed intake in the study animals was affected by sex, weight at arrival to the farm, health status (lame or tail bitten case vs healthy control), eventual recovery (culled or dead vs recovering to slaughter condition), the day relative to diagnosis and approximate age (the day on the farm), with the four latter factors involved in multiple interactions. Feed intake started decreasing already 2–3 weeks pre-diagnosis in future lame or tail bitten animals, suggesting a common predisposing factor such as reactive coping. Feed intake decreased substantially (13–99%) from control levels in sick animals, with the level dependent on diagnosis, degree of eventual recovery and age. Lame animals ingested two to three times less than tail bitten ones at diagnosis. Within both diagnoses, culled-to-be animals ingested roughly half the relative amount of those recovering to slaughter condition, suggesting that relative feed intake at diagnosis may predict the outcome of disease. Younger animals were generally more severely affected than older ones. Anorexia was prolonged up to about 30 days in culled-to-be lame animals in contrast to all other groups modeled, which started recovery immediately upon diagnosis and initiated treatment. The observed changes and differences in feed intake may indicate differences in animal welfare.
Tail lesions are outcomes of tail biting behaviour and reflective of impaired welfare in pigs. This work is part of a study which aims to validate tail lesions as possible iceberg indicators to be included in the meat inspection process at slaughter (PIGWELFIND). Twenty farrow-to-finish Irish pig farms were visited. On each farm, 18 randomly selected pens of first (n=6) and second (n=6) weaner stage and finisher (n=6) pigs were inspected. Pigs were observed for 10 min and the number of pigs with tail, ear, flank and skin lesions and the number showing signs of other health deviations (e.g. lameness, sickness) were recorded. All occurrence behaviour sampling was used to record frequency of coughing and sneezing (5 min) and tail-, ear-, and flank biting, fighting and mounting behaviour (5 min). Welfare conditions were expressed as percentage of pigs in a pen and behaviours were expressed per pig to correct for different numbers of pigs per pen (32.1±16.0 pigs/pen). Mixed model equation methods were used to analyse the effect of welfare conditions and behaviours on percentage of pigs with tail lesions. Farms and stage were included as fixed effects and welfare and behaviour indicators were included as covariates. Pen within stage by farm was included as random effect. Results for covariates are presented as regression coefficients. On average, 7.4% of pigs in a pen had tail lesions. Preliminary results show that the percentage of pigs with tail lesions was greater for pens with a higher percentage of pigs with skin lesions but lower for pens with a higher percentage of sick pigs (P<0.05). Furthermore, the percentage of pigs with tail lesions was positively associated with tail biting (P<0.001).
Results suggest that tail lesions may have potential as iceberg indicators for pig welfare. However, more research is needed to further elucidate the nature of these associations.