Tag Archives: Research

FareWellDock project meeting in Vejle, Denmark

The last FareWellDock project meeting was held in Vejle, Denmark, October 27 and 28 2016.

We first discussed the stakeholder meeting in Grange, Ireland. We contributed to the meeting with several presentations. The presentations of the meeting can be accessed here. The video  recordings will be available for some time after the meeting via this link. Striking differences exist between EU countries on their attitude and effort regarding tail docking.

The progress in the various work packages was discussed. We are on schedule in terms of milestones and deliverables.

Tail biting is a problem that may easily be overlooked. Sometimes all pigs in a pen turn out to be affected only after detecting the first pig. A standardized protocol could improve the recording and management of tail biting across research projects and across member states.

Over the past year our website has been visited more frequently (see the figure below).

This year (2016) FareWellDock project will end as a project and we intend to continue as a network. Interested scientists and other interested persons are invited to join the mailing list (please contact Anna.Valros @ helsinki.fi ).


Participants of the FareWellDock meeting in Vejle, Denmark


EC Webinar on Tail biting and Tail docking of Pigs

4-6th October 2016: Meeting and Webinar on Actions to Prevent Tailbiting and Reduce Tail docking of Pigs

Note: The presentations of the meeting can be accessed here. The video  recordings will be available for some time after the meeting via this link.

The European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety is organising a three day meeting at the offices of its Health and Food Audit and Analysis Directorate in Ireland on actions to prevent tailbiting and reduce tail docking of pigs.

The programme includes a wide range of relevant topics. It is delivered by experts from industry, Member State Competent Authorities, research bodies, EU institutions and NGOs.  Case studies will facilitate the exchange of good practice and workshops will focus on better solutions for the future. The work of the EU FareWellDock project will also be presented at this meeting.

The meeting is aimed at the authorities of Member States, international organizations, scientists, industry and NGOs.

The Agenda can be found below.

Please note that proceedings from this meeting, apart from breakout groups, will be broadcast live on the Internet and can be followed by logging in to the following links:

  • 4 October: 14:00- 16:45 GMT.


  • 5 October: 09:00- 16:30 GMT.


  • 6 October: 09:45-15:00 GMT.


Please send any questions you may have on the presentations to the functional mailbox: SANTE-IRL-WEBINAR-REARING-PIGS-WITH-INTACT-TAILS@ec.europa.eu and we will endeavour to answer as many as we can during the time for questions at the end of each presentation. If we cannot answer your question during the webinar, we will forward your question to the presenter for response after the event.

Curly tail



4th-6th October 2016, Dir F, Grange, Ireland

Tuesday 4th Oct

14:00 Opening Address, Background and objectives Dir. F. T Cassidy
14:20 Policy perspective Dir G. D Simonin
14:40 Farewelldock project Overview & Immediate and long term consequences of tail docking and tail biting for pig welfare. S Edwards/P Di Giminiani
15:00 Farewelldock project – Use of straw to reduce tail-biting as an alternative to tail-docking. L J Pedersen
15:20 Farewelldock project – Early detection of tail biting and the role of health. C Munsterhjelm
15:40 COST action (GroupHouseNet) with activities related to Tailbiting. A Prunier
16:00 Coffee break
16:30 Overview Report of Study Visits on Rearing Pigs with intact tails
Breakout group discussion on measuring on-farm performance of criteria listed in Commission Recommendation (EU) 2016/336. Dir F
18:00 Close of day 1 – Bus to Knightsbrook Hotel
Wednesday 5th Oct

08:30 Bus from Knightsbrook Hotel
09:00 Change- Recent Experience from the poultry sector. B Eivers /N O’Nuallain
09:20 Funding possibilities for changes to housing/management leading to lower stress pig production.  P G Solernou
09:50 Maintaining low stress pig production-rearing pigs with intact tails. R Weber
10:30 Coffee break
11:00 Maintaining low stress pig production-rearing pigs with intact tails. J Lindahl
11:40 Maintaining low stress pig production-rearing pigs with intact tails. T.Tirkkonen
12:30 Lunch
13:30 NGO perspectives on developing and implementing a Quality Assurance scheme for improving the rearing of pigs and phasing out tail docking.  Bert Van Den Berg
14:00 Actions to improve the productivity and welfare of pigs with the aim of reducing tail docking.  D L Schroder
14:30 Actions to improve the productivity and welfare of pigs with the aim of reducing tail docking.  H Van der Velde
15:00 Coffee break
15:30 Actions to improve the productivity and welfare of pigs with the aim of reducing tail docking. C Veit
16:00 Actions to improve the productivity and welfare of pigs with the aim of reducing tail docking.  M Chapman-Rose
16:30 MS Communication strategies for improving the productivity and welfare of pigs with the aim of reducing tail docking. F2
Breakout group discussion on benchmarking farms at national level on levels of tail biting, tail docking and provision of sufficient enrichment  materia
17:45 Close of day 2 – Bus to Knightsbrook Hotel

Thursday 6th Oct

08:30 Bus from Knightsbrook Hotel
09:00 Overview of MS’ Action Plans to implement the Commission Recommendations (EU) 2016/336 of 8 March 2016. Dir F
09:45 COM programme on actions to prevent tailbiting and reduce tail docking of pigs. Dir F
10:30 Coffee break
11:00 Industry Initiatives to improve the rearing of pigs and phasing out tail docking.  H P Lahrmann
11:30 Discussion
12:30 Lunch
13:30 Conclusions and future actions
15:00 Departure of bus for airport / Departure of bus to hotel
17:30 Departure of bus for Dublin
*   Please note that proceedings from this meeting, apart from breakout groups, will be broadcast live on the Internet.

Temporal changes in mechanical nociceptive thresholds in juvenile pigs subjected to surgical tail amputation: a model of injury induced by tail biting

Temporal changes in mechanical nociceptive thresholds in juvenile pigs subjected to surgical tail amputation: a model of injury induced by tail biting. By Di Giminiani, P., E. Malcolm, M. Leach, M. Herskin, D. Sandercock, S. Edwards, 2016. Royal Dublin Society: Abstracts book of the 24th International Pig Veterinary Society (IPVS) Congress, Dublin, Republic of Ireland 7-10th June 2016. p. 649.


Introduction: Tail biting is a global welfare problem in the pig industry leading to significant tail injury and potential carcass rejection. The temporal effects of such injuries and subsequent healing are presently unknown, although limb amputation in humans can lead to abnormal neural activity and decreased nociceptive thresholds. In order to evaluate potential sensitisation following tail damage, we created a model by surgical amputation of tails, and assessed mechanical nociceptive thresholds.

Materials and Methods: Surgical tail resection was performed to assess the influence of age, extent of tail amputated and time since amputation on thresholds of mechanical nociception. To evaluate the effect of age at the time of injury, female pigs underwent surgery at 9 weeks (±3 days ‘weaner’) (n=19) or 17 weeks (±3 days ‘finisher’) (n=43). The effect of time after amputation was evaluated on 24 pigs at 8 weeks, and 38 pigs at 16 weeks after surgery. The effect of the extent of tail amputated was assessed by assigning the pigs to 3 treatments (‘Intact’: sham-amputation; ‘short tail’: 2/3 of tail removed; ‘long tail’: 1/3 of tail removed). A Pressure Application Measurement device was used to record mechanical nociceptive thresholds (tail flick or tail clamp withdrawal responses). Within a single session, three stimuli were applied to a skin area proximal to the site of amputation, 3 days pre-surgery, 1 week and either 8 or 16 weeks post-amputation.

Results: Across the two amputation ages, results indicated that tail amputation induced a significant reduction (P<0.05) in mechanical nociceptive thresholds in short and long tails one week after surgery. The same treatment effect was observed at 16 weeks after amputation performed at 9 weeks of age (P<0.05). For surgeries performed at 17 weeks of age, thresholds tended to be lower in short compared to intact tails (P=0.081) and significantly lower (P<0.05) in long tail pigs 8 weeks after amputation. No significant difference was observed at 16 weeks following surgeries performed at 17 weeks of age.

Conclusion: These results show that surgical amputation of pig tails leads to decreased cutaneous mechanical nociceptive thresholds in the skin area proximal to the site of injury. Results indicated that severe tail injury occurring in the weaner period may be associated with sensitisation up to 16 weeks following the injury. In contrast, injuries occurring in the finishing period appeared to be associated with shorter lasting mechanical sensitisation, resolving within 16 weeks.

Poster Di Giminiani IPVS


FareWellDock Edinburgh Satellite Meeting

On July 12th the FareWellDock consortium hosted a satellite meeting and videoconference at the Roslin Institute Building near Edinburgh to coincide with the 50th conference of the International Society for Applied Ethology. The aim of the satellite meeting was to invite researchers involved in other European projects on tail docking and biting to share their work and ideas with the consortium.

The speakers gave four excellent presentations which generated interesting discussions and more ideas for planning future work (see brief summaries below)

Updates of the three work packages were also presented at the meeting. Since the last meeting in March, several more articles on tail docking and biting have been published and a number are near completion. Work progress in all three work packages appears to be on track.

Emphasis was placed upon generating and circulating draft fact sheets from the 3 work packages before the FVO Stakeholder Meeting in Grange, Republic of Ireland on October 4-6th 2016.

Sabine Dippel, a researcher at the Federal Research Institute of Animal Health (FLI), provided a comprehensive overview of “Current tail biting projects in Germany” and the summarised outputs from 51 different projects ranging from those focussed on basic science to feasibility and survey-based studies. Preliminary findings suggested that:
• Undocked weaner pigs were at higher risk of tail biting than undocked fattening pigs.
• Farmers need to gain experience in observing pigs
• Farms need to change step-by-step towards intact tails
• Focus on farm-individual optimisation
• Greater coordination between production stages
• Advice, training, knowledge transfer were essential to achieving these aims
Tail biting pigs
Valérie Courboulay a researcher at IFIP (French Institute for the pig and pork industry) provided an overview of several IFIP related studies on tail biting and dissemination of information in the form of technical datasheets to French farmers. Data presented from studies where pain relief (meloxicam) was provided at the time of docking and castration showed marginal affects on general behaviours, except for increased time spent sitting. When investigating tail posture, pigs with more severe tail lesions (score 3) exhibited more tail-down posture than pigs with minor tail or no tail lesions (score 2-0). A recent study has been undertaken to develop a model of cannibalism in pigs based on frustration of exploratory behaviours by providing environmental enrichment (progressive supply) and straw in the post weaning period and then some groups were reared with or without environmental enrichment for a short duration in the fattening period. The results showed that:
• Removal of enrichment between the post weaning and fattening periods is not sufficient to induce tail biting
• Providing objects for a few days and removing them is not sufficient to induce tail biting
• Frustration of investigative behaviour, that is considered as a major risk factor, is not sufficient to induce tail biting

INRA factsheet on pain

Jen-yun Chou, a first year PhD student working at Teagasc in the Republic of Ireland, presented preliminary findings from her studies into the use of wood as a strategy to reduce the risk of tail biting in pigs managed on slatted floors. The potential use of wood as a manipulable material is viewed positively in Irish production systems due to the problems of slurry removal caused by loose straw in fully slatted systems. To date, preliminary data have shown that softwoods such as spruce and scots pine are more readily used by the pigs compared to more hardwoods such as larch and beech.
• Spruce was used up most quickly both in terms of length and weight loss, possibly due to its softness.
• There is a tendency of more interaction with the wood by pigs in pens provided with spruce.
• In terms of texture and moisture spruce is a good option for enrichment but the cost may be a drawback
• Different wood types did not affect harmful behaviours, pig physical measures and production.
• Correlation between ear lesion and tear staining scorings implies a potential welfare assessment method on farm due to easy visibility.
• Correlation between tail posture and lesion shows that posture could be an indicator of tail biting

Chewed wood

Anna Sinclair, a first year SRUC PhD student currently working at the Institut National de la Recherché Agronomique (INRA), presented preliminary findings from studies into the behavioural and neural/cellular consequences of tooth resection in commercial pigs at its implications for pig welfare. Although this work was not directly related to tail docking or biting it is a project that was developed through on-going collaborative research by Dr. Armelle Prunier ay INRA and Dr. Dale Sandercock at SRUC within the FareWellDock project, addressing the issue of early life pain in livestock. Preliminary data were presented on the effects of tooth clipping and tooth grinding on tooth length and tooth/gum injury, haematological measures, live weight/growth rates, general, stress and pain related behavioural measures. Findings to date have shown that:
• Tooth damage was readily observed but variable
• Maxillary incisors are most consistently affected
• Clipping results in tooth and gum bleeding
• Growth rates are unaffected
• Pigs exhibit reduced activity after tooth treatments
• Pigs keep their ears back less and their tails down more, although this could be handling effect
• High variation at this stage – more data are required

Tooth treatment

Investigating the effect of rooting substrate provision on the group lying behaviour of pigs using machine vision

Investigating the effect of rooting substrate provision on the group lying behaviour of pigs using machine vision. By: Abozar Nasirahmadi, Sandra A Edwards, Barbara Sturm,
Conference Paper · June 2016. Conference: CIGR-AgEng Conference, Aarhus, Denmark


To deliver good animal welfare, pigs should have a hygienic and undisturbed lying area within the pen. However, the provision of a rooting material is desirable to meet behavioural needs and this can only be given onto solid floor away from the dunging area, which might disrupt the group lying pattern. To determine whether daily provision of a rooting material (maize silage) onto a solid plate in the lying area of a fully slatted pen resulted in changed lying location, the lying patterns of pigs in 6 enriched pens were compared with those of 6 control pens which had only a suspended enrichment toy. Since visual monitoring of pig behaviours over long periods is very time consuming, an image
processing technique was applied to identify any changes pig lying positions and behaviour. Pigs were monitored by top view CCTV cameras and animals were extracted from their background using image processing algorithms. The x–y coordinates of each binary image were used for ellipse fitting algorithms to localize each pig. In order to find the lying positions, ellipse parameters were calculated for all fitted ellipses. Each pen was virtually subdivided into four zones in images and the centroid of each fitted ellipse was used for finding the position of each lying pig at 10 minute intervals during their lying period, after use of an algorithm to remove images in motion preceding the scan. By means of the ellipse properties it was possible to automatically find and compare the
changes in lying position of pigs in the pens. Results showed that once daily provision of rooting material did significantly change lying behaviour.

Proper enrichment for intensively-farmed pigs – From review to preview

Bracke, M.B.M. 2016. Enrichment materials for intensively-farmed pigs – From review to preview (Conference abstract & presentation, ICPD 2016). In: Kemp, B. et al., 2016. 16th International Conference on Production Diseases in Farm Animals. June 20-23, 2016. Wageningen, NL. p. 179.


Tail biting is a well-known production disease in intensively-farmed pigs raising concern for animal welfare, e.g. related to the practice of routine tail docking. To reduce tail biting pigs are provided with enrichment materials. EU legislation requires that pigs have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities. In order to meet this directive many pigs are provided with a metal chain with or without a rather indestructible object attached to the chain. The European commission recently revised current guidelines as to what constitutes adequate enrichment, apparently moving into the direction of the status-quo in welfare schemes. Building on extensive previous work at Wageningen UR Livestock Research, especially on the modelling of pig enrichment (the so-called RICHPIG model) a review is presented of our current state of knowledge. In addition, an outline is given as to how so-called AMI-sensors, measuring Animal-Material Interactions (AMI) (semi-)automatically, can be used to assess the pig’s need for enrichment, also in relation to aspects associated with health status, such as feed restriction, biting wounds and streptococcus infection. It is suggested that the use of chains with or without rather indestructible materials such as pipes, balls or (hard)wood is generally inadequate to enrich the pens of intensively-farmed pigs. An evolutionary mechanism appears to be underlying the causation of multifactorial welfare problems in general, the issues of enrichment, tail biting and tail docking in pigs in particular. In this respect ongoing selection for increased resource efficiency has been exerting a profound impact on livestock production. Various routes are explored as to how persistent welfare problems may be resolved, including a method that has been called Intelligent Natural Design (IND).

Branched chain
Two organic pigs interacting simultaneously with a branched chain in the snow. Despite access to a straw bed for rooting, even organic pigs may interact with such chains for long periods of time, esp. directed towards the floor. In fact they will root the chain on the floor more than twice as much as playing with it in a horizontal position. In intensive pig production chains are often (too) short, and when a hockey-type ball or ‘sustainable’ plastic pipe is attached to the end of such a chain the pigs’ interest, and their welfare, is often even reduced further. By contrast, to improve the chain further 7mm stainless-steel anchor chains may be recommended for growing pigs over the cheaper c-chain shown here, as anchor chains have heavier and more rounded shackles.

See also an older previous presentation on tail biting.

Bracke, M.B.M, Wolthuis, M., Zonderland, J. J., Kluivers, M., 2011. TAILS TO TELL – Tail docking, tail biting and enrichment for pigs – Experiences from the Netherlands. Herning, DK, May 25-26, 2011.

Behavioural differences between weaner pigs with intact and docked tails

Behavioural differences between weaner pigs with intact and docked tails
By Paoli, MA; Lahrmann, HP; Jensen, T; D’Eath, RB, 2016. Animal Welfare 25: 287-296.


Tail-biting in pigs (Sus scrofa) reduces welfare and production. Tail-docking reduces (but does not eliminate) tail-biting damage. The reason tail-docking reduces tail damage is unknown. It may reduce pigs attraction to tails (H1), or increase tails’ sensitivity to investigation (H2). To investigate these hypotheses, behavioural differences between 472 individually marked grower pigs with intact tails (nine groups of 25–34 pigs) or docked tails (nine groups of 22–24 pigs) were observed from 5–8 weeks of age on a commercial farm in Denmark. Pens had part-slatted floors, dry feeding and two handfuls of straw per day, and enrichment objects were provided. Behavioural sampling recorded actor and recipient for tail-directed (tail interest, tail in mouth, tail reaction) and investigatory behaviours (belly-nosing, ear-chewing, interaction with enrichment). Scan sampling recorded pig posture/activity and tail posture. Intact-tail pigs performed more overall investigatory behaviours but tail type did not affect the amount of tail-directed behaviours. Larger pigs performed more investigatory and tail-directed behaviours than smaller pigs and females performed slightly more tail investigation. Tail-directed behaviours were not consistent over time at the individual or group level. However, ear-chewing was consistent at the group level. One group with intact tails was affected by a tail-biting outbreak in the final week of the study (evidenced by tail-damage scores) and showed an increase over time in tail posture (tail down) and tail-directed behaviour but not activity. Overall, there were few behavioural differences between docked and undocked pigs: no evidence of reduced tail investigation (H1) or an increased reaction to tail investigation (H2) in docked pigs, and yet docked pigs had less tail damage. We propose that docking might be effective because longer tails are more easily damaged as pigs are able to bite them with their cheek teeth.

Understanding tail biters and victimized pigs during outbreaks of tail biting

Understanding tail biters and victimized pigs during outbreaks of tail biting
By Y. Li, J. Anderson, A. Holten, A.M. Hilbrands, J. Holen and L.J. Johnston, 2016. Jounal of Animal Science 94, suppl 2: 2, p. 8-9.


Tail biting is a common problem in growing–finishing pigs, which can compromise health, growth, and welfare of pigs. Because tail biting is an abnormal behavior performed by tail biters toward victimized pigs, understanding these pigs may help us solve the problem. This study was conducted to evaluate immune function of tail biters and victimized pigs. Pigs (n = 240; 25.7 ± 2.9 kg initial weight) were housed in 8 pens of 30 pigs for 16 wk. Once visible blood on a tail appeared, pigs in that pen were assessed daily for tail score (0 = no damage, 1 = healed lesions, 2 = visible blood without swelling, 3 = swelling and signs of infection, and 4 = partial or total loss of the tail). Victimized pigs were defined as pigs with tail scores equal to or greater than 2. Meanwhile, a 2-h observation was conducted for 2 consecutive days to identify tail biters. In each pen in which tail biting occurred, blood samples were collected from victimized pigs on the day that tail biting was first observed as well as from tail biters and 2 control pigs with no sign of tail damage. Fourteen biters (6 barrows and 8 gilts), 30 victimized pigs (21 barrows and 9 gilts), and 28 control pigs (14 barrows and 14 gilts) were identified for blood sampling. Total serum protein and IgG concentrations were analyzed using the spectrophotometric method. Data were analyzed using the Glimmix model of SAS (SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC). Compared with control and victimized pigs, tail biters had lower total serum protein (P = 0.01; Table 018) and IgG concentrations (P = 0.01), suggesting poor immunity. There were no differences in total serum protein or IgG concentrations between control and victimized pigs. These preliminary results suggest that tail biters may experience compromised immunity.

Influence of tail docking, with or without a cold analgesic spray, on behaviour, performance and physiology of piglets

Influence of tail docking, with or without a cold analgesic spray, on behaviour, performance and physiology of piglets
By Armelle Prunier, Gaëlle Bataille, Marie-Christine Meunier-Salaün, Aline Bregeon, Y. Rugraff. 2001. Journées Rech. Porcine en France, 33, 313-318. (Article in French).


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.

Penile injuries (incl. penis biting) in domestic (& wild) pigs

Penile Injuries in Wild and Domestic Pigs.
By Weiler U, Isernhagen M, Stefanski V, Ritzmann M, Kress K, Hein C, Zöls S. 2016. Animals 6: 4.


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.