Is it possible to get rid of tail docking? By Vincent ter Beek 2017. Article in PigProgress about FareWellDock.
Tail docking is a well-known practice in pig production, but it is also heavily criticised. An international team of researchers dived into the topic and wondered what its exact effects are on pigs – and what alternatives there are to avoid tail biting….
Note: This article is an approved summary of the Executive Summary which was published earlier this year at http://farewelldock.eu. In future issues of Pig Progress, to be published later this year, several participating researchers in this project will delve deeper into the individual topics they encountered.
Tail biting constitutes a major welfare and health issue in commercial pig rearing, with significant negative economic consequences. Contrary to the aim of the EU directive (2001/93/EC), tail docking is still widely practiced in most EU countries as a measure to reduce the incidence of tail biting and concomitant pathologies. Mutilations are a general welfare concern in all species, and any efforts towards reducing the need for tail docking are important for the future sustainability of the EU pig sector. Sound policy making needs science-based risk assessment, including assessment of the severity of problems and effectiveness of solutions. The general objectives of the FareWellDock-project included estimation of the relative harms associated with tail docking and tail biting, and evaluation of the efficacy of some main preventive measures against tail biting, which could reduce the need for tail docking. The ultimate aim was to stimulate the development towards a non-docking policy in the EU.
The first objective of WP1 was to evaluate measures of acute and chronic pain in relation to tail damage. This included assessment of the short (acute trauma), medium (post trauma inflammation) and long term (traumatic neuroma formation) pain associated with tail docking in neonatal piglets, and the possible consequences for longer term fear of humans. In addition, the studies assessed the effects of tail-damage in more mature pigs to provide a basis for assessing the pain associated with being tail bitten in later life. Finally, studies were conducted to assess the effects of an NSAID analgesic on the short term responses to neonatal tail docking.
Experimental studies confirmed that piglets do experience pain when tail docked, and that pain relief treatment, such as meloxicam, can lessen but not abolish the physiological stress reaction to docking. Piglets which have been tail docked seem more fearful of people afterwards than undocked animals. In docked tails, no difference in pain sensitivity of the tail (as measured by behavioural withdrawal) is detected after 8 weeks, but changes in the functioning of the sensory nerves from the tail can still be measured after 4 months, which suggests that the possibility for longer term pain exists. When the tail is damaged later in life, as happens with tail biting, changes in both tail stump sensitivity and nerve functioning can last for at least 4 months, and possibly beyond.
WP2 focused on the role of manipulable material when reducing the need for tail docking. The aim was to develop and validate ways to assess if on-farm use of manipulable material is sufficient to reduce tail biting. Further, the aim was to describe suitable methods for implementing the use of straw under commercial farming conditions and to investigate, in on-farm conditions, the efficiency of tail docking vs. enrichment given in sufficient quantity to reduce the occurrence of tail lesions.
A screening method to assess the appropriateness of the level of enrichment on-farm was developed and includes scoring of the amount of unsoiled straw, the behaviour, and ear, tail and flank lesions of the pigs. AMI (animal-material interaction) sensors were used e.g. to show that pigs in biter pens were more interested in novel ropes than pigs in control pens, that environmental enrichment may reduce exploratory behaviour of point-source objects, and that sick pigs, experimentally infected with streptococcus spp, were less interested in chain manipulation. The sensors appear to be a promising tool to assess the use of manipulable material by pigs. In countries (SE and FI) where tail docking is not done, farmers report using on average of 30 to 50 g of straw/pig/ day, equivalent to about 0.5 L/pig/day. A survey in SE revealed fewer injurious tail biting outbreaks on farms using larger amounts of straw. Larger amounts of straw were mainly used on farms having scrapers in the slurry channels. A large experimental study showed that a moderate amount of straw (150 gr/pig/day) reduced injurious tail-biting outbreak in finisher pigs by more than 50%, while docking seemed to be more effective as it reduced tail biting by more than four-fold. The effect of both measures was additive, i.e. docking and straw reduced tail biting 9 fold. Further, it was shown that increasing the amount of straw from 10 to up to 400 gr/pig/day had multiple positive effects by progressively reducing the occurrence of tail injuries and stomach ulcers, increasing growth rate, increasing straw-directed behaviour, and reducing redirected behaviours towards other pigs.
In WP3 the aim was to clarify the role of poor health in the causation of tail biting and victimization, and the aim was study early identification of tail-biting outbreaks. In addition, the aim to develop automated systems for early warning of tail biting outbreaks.
The results of experimental and on-farm studies showed that the social behaviour of sick pigs differs from healthy pen mates, as pigs with osteochondrosis received more sniffing and tail bites from their pen mates than healthy pigs, while pigs with mild respiratory disease tended to bite more at the ears and tails of pen mates than healthy pigs did. In addition, studies of cytokines suggest that low-grade inflammation may decrease activity and increase receiving sniffs and attacks from other pigs. Studies on data sets from commercial pig farms indicated that changes in feeding behaviour may be an important sign of an increased risk for tail biting to occur: Future tail bitten individuals showed a reduced feed intake already 2-3 weeks before tail damage became evident. Furthermore, feeding behaviour in groups which develop tail biting may differ from non-biting groups for at least ten weeks prior to an injurious tail-biting outbreak. It was also shown that tail-chewing activity may start 2-3 weeks before tail damage can be seen. A detailed behavioural study of tail biting events revealed that there appears to be no such thing as a ‘typical’ tail-biting event and that the behaviour shown immediately before a tail-biting event does not differ from behaviour prior to another type of social interaction, namely ano-genital sniffing. Thus, it seems difficult to predict if a social event will escalate into tail biting or not. However, tail biting is more likely between pigs that have previously interacted. Data sets from several countries and studies indicated an association between tail-biting damage and tear staining, but the direction of this association is not clear.
In summary the project concluded on a set of practical recommendations, which have been published as part of four factsheets on the FareWellDock-webpage:
- Avoid tail docking whenever possible because it definitely causes pain, induces long-term changes in sensory-nerve function and may impair the pigs’ confidence in humans.
- Avoid tail biting, and hence the need for tail docking, by addressing risk factors on the farm.
- Treat tail-bitten pigs promptly and consider pain relief.
- To reduce injurious tail-biting outbreaks, use straw as it might be almost as effective as tail docking. For this purpose, the more straw the better.
- To ensure that sufficient straw is allocated check that there is left-over straw before the next day’s allocation.
- Keep your pigs healthy. This will be good both for productivity and also help avoid injurious tail-biting outbreaks.
- If pigs show signs of illness, be more alert to tail biting risk.
- Remove tail-bitten pigs promptly to avoid further damage and treat according to veterinary advice.
- Pay special attention to groups of pigs where you see:
- high or suddenly increased levels of general activity or exploration
- tail manipulation or chewing
- swinging or tucked tails
- low or decreasing numbers of visits to an automatic feeder or reduced feed intake
Information on project activities and publications have been continuously published on the FareWellDock-webpage. To date, 16 scientific articles have been published, and 9 are in preparation. Communication to stakeholders has been active, both through the FareWellDock-webpage, including 97 blog posts, and by interviews in media in different countries, popular articles and presentations at producer seminars. In October 2016 the results were presented widely at the EU level to policy makers and other stakeholders at the ‘Meeting and Webinar on Actions to Prevent Tail biting and Reduce Tail docking of Pigs’, organized by the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety in Grange, Ireland.
Due to the positive experience of the cooperation a decision was made at the last project meeting in DK in October 2016 that we will continue our cooperation as the FareWellDock-network, also inviting further researchers and stakeholders to join. The first activity of the FWD-network will be to organise a satellite meeting at the Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology in August 2017 in DK, and to launch an emailing list to make sure FWD-network members and other researchers keep updated on research progress and related topics.
The FareWellDock factsheets are out. Below you find the cover factsheet as well as the factsheets on tail docking, enrichment, health and the prediction of tail biting. This post shows images of the English versions, and links to the pdf version of the English factsheets, as well as all factsheets in Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish. Separate pages are available directly showing the factsheets in the other languages (Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish).
Factsheet cover English (pdf)
Factsheet cover Danish (pdf)
Factsheet cover Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet cover Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet cover French (pdf)
Factsheet cover Italian (pdf)
Factsheet cover Norwegian (pdf)
Factsheet cover Swedish (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Tail docking English (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Danish (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet 1 French (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Italian (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Norwegian
Factsheet 1 Swedish (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Enrichment English (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Danish (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet 2 French (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Italian (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Norwegian (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Swedish (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Health English (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Danish (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet 3 French (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Italian (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Norwegian (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Swedish (pdf)
Prediction of tail biting
Factsheet 4 Prediction English (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Danish (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet 4 French (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Italian (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Norwegian (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Swedish (pdf)
Wallgren, T. R. Westin and S. Gunnarsson, 2016. A survey of straw use and tail biting in Swedish pig farms rearing undocked pigs. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 58:84.
Background: Tail biting is a common problem in intensive pig farming, affecting both welfare and production. Although routine tail docking is banned within the EU, it remains a common practice to prevent tail biting. Straw as environmental enrichment has been proposed as an alternative to tail docking, but its effectiveness against tail biting and function in manure handling systems have to be considered. The aim of the study was to survey how pigs with intact tails are raised and how tail biting is handled in Sweden, where tail docking is banned through national legislation. The study emphasises straw usage and its association with tail biting pigs and problems in the manure handling system. The expectation is that this information could be conveyed to the rest of the EU to reduce the need for tail docking.
Results: In a telephone survey of randomly selected Swedish pig farmers (46 nursery and 43 finishing pig units) with at least 50 sows or 300 finishing places, it was found that straw was used by 98% of the farmers. The median daily straw ration provided was 29 g/pig for nursery and 50 g/pig for finishing pigs in systems with partly slatted flooring. The reported prevalence of tail biting was 1.6% at slaughter. The majority of farmers reported that they never had manure handling problems caused by straw (56% of nursery units and 81% of finishing pig units). A proportion of farmers (37%) also provided with additional material apart from straw on some occasions, which may have affected tail biting prevalence and manure handling problems.
Conclusions: Swedish farmers rear undocked pigs without large problems with tail biting. Straw is the main manipulable material used, and additional manipulable material is used to various extents. The low incidence of straw obstructing the manure handling systems implies that it is indeed possible to use straw in partly slatted flooring systems, reducing the need for tail docking. The impact of using additional manipulable material is unknown and requires more investigation to separate the impact of such material from the impact of straw.
A survey of straw use and tail biting in Swedish undocked pig farms
ICPD 2016, 20-23 June 2016, Wageningen (oral presentation)
T. Wallgren, R. Westin, S. Gunnarsson
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Skara, Sweden
Tail biting is a common problem in todays’ pig production, affecting production and welfare. As tail biting behaviour is more prominent in systems with no or limited access manipulable material, it has been considered related to exploratory behaviours. Tail docking, commonly used as tail biting prevention, is a painful procedure that can decrease pig welfare does not eliminate the tail biting behaviour. Although tail docking is not accepted as a routine procedure according to the EU Directive 2008/120/EC it is still a common practise within the EU, which is why other measures to reduce tail biting behaviour are needed. In Sweden, tail docking is banned and tail biting must be reduced otherwise. Furthermore, Swedish legislation banned fully slatted floors and demands pigs to have access to manipulable material. In order to investigate the prevalence of tail biting in Sweden and the relationship with provision of straw, we performed a telephone survey in nursery (n=46) and finishing pig (n=43) farms. Farmers were interviewed regarding straw usage (e.g. daily ratios) and tail biting (e.g. frequency). All participating farmers gave access to manipulable material and 98% used straw. The median straw ration reported by farmers was 29g/pig/day (min: 8g, max: 85g) in nursery and 50g/pig/day (9g, 225g) in finishing farms when excluding deep litter systems. Farmers reported having observed tail bitten pigs, at any time, in 50% of nursery and 88% of finishing pig farms. Of these, tail bitten pigs were reported to be found ≤2 times/year (78%), 3-6 times/year(17%) or monthly (4%) in nursery and ≤2 times/year (21%), 3-6 times/year (37%), monthly (34%) or weekly (8%) in finishing farms. Finishing farmers reported on average 1.6% tail bitten pigs/batch (0.1-6.5%), which is in line with abattoir data. Spearman rank correlation was used for statistical analysis. Increased straw ration was correlated with decreased reported tail biting frequency in finishing farms (r=-0.39, P=0.03, n=31), and a tendency for this was found in nursery farms (r=-0.33, P=0.08, n=29) when deep litter systems were included. In finishing farms, excluding deep litter systems, an increased tail biting frequency observed by farmers was correlated to the percentage of tail bitten pigs (r=0.64, P=<0.001, n=33), indicating that an increased frequency of tail biting reported may be associated with more pens affected at outbreaks. Even though provided straw rations were quite small (i.e. 30-50 g/pig/day), this amount of straw may provide pigs with enough occupation to limit tail biting outbreaks. We conclude that tail biting can be kept at a low level (ca 2%) in partly slatted flooring systems, without tail docking, by supplying straw.
Raising undocked pigs: straw, tail biting and management
ISAE 201612-15 July 2016 (poster presentation, see below)
Torun Wallgren, Rebecka Westin and Stefan Gunnarsson
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Skara, Sweden
Tail biting in pigs is common in pig production and has been suggested correlated to several behaviours. It is associated with reduced welfare and production losses. A common practice to reduce tail biting within EU is tail docking where part of the tail is removed; a painful procedure that does not eliminate the behaviour. According to the EU Directive 2008/120/EC routine tail docking is banned and other measures to reduce tail biting must replace docking. An alternative is to improve the pig environment by using straw and thus decrease development of tail biting. Straw usage has been difficult to implement since it is argued that straw provision is incompatible with fully slatted floors. In Sweden, tail docking and fully slatted floors are completely banned through national legislation. Furthermore, it is a legal requirement that pigs should have access to manipulable material. The implementation of straw usage in Swedish farms was investigated in a telephone survey to study straw usage and farmers’ opinion on straw impact on tail biting and farm management. A total of 46 nursery and 43 finishing farmers were interviewed, all reporting providing pigs with enrichment material, most commonly straw (98%). Median straw rations provided in systems with partly slatted floor was 29 g/pig/day (8-85 g) in nursery and 50 g (9-225 g) in finishing farms. Straw was the only manipulable material in 50% of nursery and 65% of finishing farms while remaining farms used additional material, most commonly wood shavings (65%). ‘Toys’, e.g. balls and ropes, were used by 13% of nursery and 16% of finishing farmers as a supplement to other manipulable material. Of these, 62% only provided these ‘toys’ occasionally, e.g. at re-grouping or when tail biting had been observed. Problems in the manure handling systems caused by straw had occurred in 32% of the farms, of these 25% had problems at yearly and 7% monthly, or more seldom (58%). Tail biting had been observed in the production at least once by 50% of nursery and 88% of finishing farmers, an average of 1.6% finishing pigs were reported tail bitten per batch (0.1-6.5). Tail biting was observed ≤twice/year (78%) 3-6 times/yr (17%) and monthly (4%) by nursey and ≤2 times/yr (21%), 3-6 times/yr (37%), monthly (34%) and weekly (8%) by finishing farmers. The provided amounts of straw seem to be sufficient to keep tail biting at a low level in undocked pig herds (<2%/batch). The low incidence of straw obstruction in manure handling systems reported also implies that straw usage at this rate 30-50 g/pig/day) is manageable in pig production systems.
Production of undocked pigs, a survey of farmers’ experiences
EAAP Annual Meeting, 29 August – 2 September 2016, Belfast (oral presentation)
T. Wallgren, R. Westin, S. Gunnarsson
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Skara, Sweden
Tail biting is a common cause for reduced welfare and production rates within commercial pig production and is more prominent in barren environments. Using enrichment as straw has been shown to reduce tail biting behavior and thus reduce need for tail docking. Implementation of straw in practice has however partly default since it is argued that straw will cause obstruction in the manure handling systems. Sweden has a long tradition of rearing undocked pigs with access to straw due to national legislation banning docking and fully slatted floors while demanding access to manipulable material for pigs. We surveyed 60 randomly selected Swedish nursery and finishing pig farmers’ usage of straw and their opinions on straw impact on tail biting and manure handling management. All farmers provided manipulable material, 98% straw. In 50% of nursery and 35% of finishing farms the straw was complemented with material such as wood shavings. Straw rations were 29g/pig/day (8-85g) in nursery and 50g (9-225g) in finishing farms. Straw was commonly chopped (76%) to a mean length of 6 cm (1-10) in nursery and 8 cm (1-20) in finishing farms. Straw causing problems in the manure handling system occurred in 32% of the farms who experienced this yearly (25%) or monthly (7%). Most common causes were straw making the slurry sluggish, stacked in pivot or blocking slats. The low incidences of problems indicate current systems are able to cope with presented straw rations. Tail biting had been seen at least one time ever in 50% of nursery and 88% of finishing farms. Frequency of observed tail biting was ≤twice/year (78%) 3-6 times/yr (17%) and monthly (4%) by nursey and ≤ 2 times/yr (21%), 3-6 times/yr (37%), monthly (34%) and weekly (8%) by finishing farmers. An average of 1.6 (0.1-6.5) finishing pigs were reported tail bitten each batch. In partly slatted flooring systems a correlation was found between increased tail biting frequency and percentage of reported tail bitten pigs (r=0.64, P= <0.0001, n=38) (Spearman Rank correlation). The limited tail biting problems indicate that straw usage at this level is enough to prevent major tail biting outbreaks in undocked pigs.
Tail docking in the EU: A case of routine violation of an EU Directive
By Lerner, H and B. Algers. 2013. In book: The ethics of consumption, pp.374-378. Wageningen Academic Publishers. The Netherlands.
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.
On 29 – 30 April 2015 Denmark hosted an international conference “Improving Pig Welfare – what are the ways forward?“.
Below you find ‘soundbites’ from posters presented at the the conference, all more or less related to the subjects of study in the FareWellDock project.
Do increasing amounts of straw increase growing pigs’ oral manipulation of straw?
Margit Bak Jensen, Mette S. Herskin, Björn Forkman, Lene J. Pedersen
Pigs were provided with various amounts of unchopped straw (10-500 gr/pig/day) to determine the amount of straw where additional provision did not further increase pigs’ exploratory behaviour.
Increasing the straw amount from 10 to 360 g straw per pig per day increased the time pigs spent in oral manipulation of straw markedly, while increasing the straw amount above 430 g straw per pig per day had no additional effect .
Approximately 400 g long straw per pig per day maximizes straw‐directed behaviour in partly slatted concrete floor (0.7 m2/pig)
Providing various amounts of straw (10-500 gr/pig/day) showed that oral manipulation of straw increases steadily up to 360 g straw/p/d. (M. Bak-Jensen et al.)
Increasing amounts of straw increase growing pigs’ production and healthLene J. Pedersen, Mette S. Herskin, Björn Forkman, Henrik Elvang Jensen, Margit B. Jensen
Aim: To quantify the amount of straw needed to achieve health and production effects, we investigated the effect of straw amount on the prevalence of gastric ulcers and production parameters.
Animals & housing: In both experiments pigs were housed in groups of 18 per pen, with partly slatted concrete floor (0.7 m2/pig) and fed a commercial dry feed for ad libitum intake.
Conclusion: The average daily gain (ADG) increased by 8±17 g/day for every extra 100 g straw added daily (P<0.001) resulting in 42 g higher ADG at 500 compared to 10 g straw provided. The feed conversion ratio was not affected by amounts of straw. The proportion of pigs with ulcerations was reduced by permanent access to straw (7 vs. 33%; P<0.05). Based on these results, production and health parameters were improved by increasing amounts of straw to pigs kept in conventional pens.
More straw improves production (ADG) and health (ulceration) parameters of pigs significantly (L.J. Pedersen et al.)
Tail biters may have a relatively high innate immune status (Ursinus et al.)
Straw provided to growing/finishing pigs resulted in a lower prevalence of tail lesions at slaughter (Dippel et al.)
The SchwIP management tool for tail biting in fattening pigs: a comprehensive approach for a complex problem (Dippel et al.)
Farm specific reports with causal explanations facilitate farmer engagement and knowledge transfer (Dippel et al.)
Tail lesions on carcasses of Irish slaughter pigs in relation to producer association with advisory services
N. van Staaveren, D. L. Teixeira, A. Hanlon and L. A. Boyle
The high prevalence of moderate tail lesions in a large proportion of batches of slaughter pigs suggests that chronic tail manipulation is a widespread problem. The large variation between batches indicates that there is good scope for improvement in the housing and management of pigs to reduce this behaviour on Irish farms. Given the economic and welfare implications of even moderate tail lesions it would benefit producers to receive information from the factory on such lesions recorded during meat inspection. This could help inform farm management plans and enable intervention before the behaviour escalates into tail biting.
The high prevalence of moderate tail lesions in a large proportion of batches of IE slaughter pigs suggests that chronic tail manipulation is a widespread problem (Van Staaveren et al.).
The large variation in tail biting between batches indicates that there is good scope for improvement in the housing and management of pigs to reduce this behaviour.
It would benefit pig producers to receive information about tail lesions recorded during meat inspection. This could help inform farm management and enable intervention before the behaviour escalates into tail biting (Van Staaveren et al.).
Experiences with Intact Tails in Well-Managed Conventional Herds
H.P. Lahrmann, T. Jensen, E. Damsted
Even in well-managed herds in average one out of two pigs is at risk of getting a tail lesion between 7-85 kg (Lahrmann et al., pilot study in DK).
Straw Use and Prevention of Tail Biting in Undocked Pigs – a Survey of Housing and Management Routines in Swedish Pig Farms
Stefan Gunnarsson, Beth Young and Rebecka Westin
The Swedish farmers reported limited problems with tail biting in finishing pigs. In nurseries tail biting was rarely observed.
Straw was provided to the pigs more or less daily.
Distribution of straw caused no problems with the manure system in 58% of the nurseries and in 81% of the finishing units (Gunnarsson et al.).
The Effect of an Enriched Environment on Biting Behavior and Performance of Finishing Pigs with Intact Tails
A. Bulens, S. Van Beirendonck, J. Van Thielen, N. Buys, B. Driessen
Pigs performed better in pens enriched with hanging toy, straw blocks and hiding wall: pigs had higher body weight at 90 kg and at 120kg, and showed less frustration and less tail manipulation. (Bulens et al.)
Curly Tails: the Dutch Approach
Marion Kluivers, Carola van der Peet, Anita Hoofs, Nienke Dirx, Nanda Ursinus, Liesbeth Bolhuis, Geert van der Peet
Dutch Curly Tails project aims at closing the gap between science and practice, and relieving the anxiety and scepticism about keeping pigs with long tails in current systems.
During the first year researchers and animal caretakers developed a mutual understanding that enabled putting scientific knowledge into practice (Kluivers et al.)
Costs and labour of keeping pigs with intact tails should not be underestimated (Kluivers et al.)
Biting behaviour can already start in the farrowing unit (Kluivers et al.)
Coaching, creating trust, transferring knowledge are essential in the process towards keeping pigs with long intact tails (Kluivers et al.)
How to solve a conflict without getting into a fight? Space for conflict resolution should not be regarded as an unnecessary luxury (Camerlink et al.)
On 29 – 30 April 2015 Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dan Jørgensen hosted an international conference “Improving Pig Welfare – what are the ways forward?“.
During the two-day conference, top academics, experts and political stakeholders from around the world debated and worked to prepare the way forward in improving pig welfare in Europe and ultimately in the world.
Below are ‘soundbites’ from video-interviews with legislators attending the conference, all more or less related to the subjects of study in the FareWellDock project.
A pig is an intelligent animal. It is a sentient being. Therefore, it needs to be treated with respect (Dan Jørgensen, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries)
Finding solutions in how we can produce pigs in a competive manner, but at the same time improve the animal welfare, is an extremely important task (D. Jørgensen)
Sharon Dijksma, Minister for Agriculture, The Netherlands – “Towards Sustainable Pig Farming – The Dutch Way”
Dutch pigs are top quality animals: they are healthy, fertile and, if I may say so, good to eat (S. Dijksma)
Pig welfare is playing a growing role in where the Dutch pig industry is at present (S. Dijksma).
The Dutch care deeply about animal welfare. Animals have intrinsic value, i.e. value in itself, independent of people (S. Dijksma).
We are happy other countries share our conviction. Together we will be more succesful convincing the agricultural sector worldwide to put the welfare of animals first (S. Dijksma).
We must respect the animals’ physical integrity. … Physical integrity also means letting pigs keep their tails (S. Dijksma).
I call on the sector to make every effort to prevent tail biting as much as possible…. My aim is a complete ban on tail docking (S. Dijksma).
Animal welfare also means animals must be able to exhibit their natural behaviour. Pigs investigate their environment by rooting and biting. (S. Dijksma)
When we eat meat it is good to know that the animals from which our meat derives have had a pleasant life (S. Dijksma)
I’m convinced that nothing beats the taste of pork chops of a pig that really lived well (S. Dijksma)
It is wrong to put farmers in the bank of the accused ones (Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Germany – “Minding Animals – Ways to Improve Animal Welfare“)
Sven-Erik Bucht, Minister for Rural Affairs, Sweden – “High Animal Welfare – A Winning Concept for Future Pig Production”
We are what we eat (S.-E. Bucht)
[In EU pig production] We must focus on quality, and quality means animal welfare (S.-E. Bucht)
Good animal welfare is not about the health and well-being of our pigs. It is also about our own health, and of our children, and of our grandchildren (S.-E. Bucht)
About truely good food, we all have a lot to learn (S.-E. Bucht)
More and more the European consumer calls for animal-friendly products (Denis Simonin, Policy officer on animal welfare at European Commission)
The EU strategy for the protection and welfare of animals (2012-2015) was focused on the enforcement of the EU rules (D. Simonin)
Almost 2/3 of member states are fully compliant with welfare regulations on group housing of sows
[In the European Commission] Work is still ongoing on the development of guidelines aiming to achieve better implementation of the use of manipulable materials (D. Simonin)
EU reference centers for animal welfare to support the enforcement of animal welfare standards
Problems with the treatment of pigs are among the most important problems to be improved as regards animal welfare (Janusz Wojciechowski, MEP and Vice-chairman in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development)
Pigs are very intelligent and very sensitive (J. Wojciechowski)
Esp. European pig farming is increasingly industrialised. Thousands of pigs in one place is not good for animal welfare standards (J. Wojciechowski)
This post presents the highlights and abstract of a paper by Westin et al.:
Westin, R., Holmgren, N., Hultgren, J., Ortman, K., Linder, K., Algers, B. In press. Post-mortem findings and piglet mortality in relation to strategic use of straw at farrowing. Prev. Vet. Med.
• Post-mortem examination was performed in 798 piglets from 363 litters.
• The major post-mortem findings were starvation (34%) and crushing (28%).
• Fewer piglets starved to death in STRAW compared to CONTROL-litters.
• Strategic use of straw reduced the number of stillborn piglets by 27%.
Piglet survival is the outcome of complex interactions between the sow, the piglet and
their environment. In order to facilitate nest-building and to provide a suitable environment for the newborn piglets, a strategic method to supply loose housed sows with large quantities of straw at farrowing has been developed by Swedish piglet-producing farmers. The objectives of this cohort study were to use post-mortem findings to assess the causes of death and to quantify the effect of a large quantity of straw provided before farrowing compared to limited small daily amounts on stillbirths, post-mortem findings in piglets dying within 5 days after birth and the pre-weaning mortality. On each of four commercial piglet-producing farms in South-West Sweden, one batch of sows was studied during two consecutive lactations. At inclusion, sows were randomly assigned to two treatment groups, and sows remaining in the batch during the next lactation switched treatment group. In the STRAW group (n = 181 litters) sows were provided with 15–20 kg of chopped straw 2 days prior to the calculated date of farrowing. Sows in the CONTROL group (n = 182 litters) received 0.5–1 kg of chopped straw on a daily basis plus about 2 kg for nest-building when the stockperson judged the sow to be about to farrow. After onset of farrowing, additionally 1–2 kg was given. Post-mortem examination was performed in all piglets that died within 5 days after birth (n = 798). The three major post-mortem findings were starvation (34%) crushing by the sow (28%), and enteritis (24%). In conclusion, strategic use of large quantities of straw reduced the number of stillborn piglets per litter by 27% (p = 0.007). Under the conditions studied, the pre-weaning mortality of liveborn piglets was not affected by treatment; however, the distribution of post-mortem findings differed with fewer piglets dying due to starvation and more due to crushing and enteritis in STRAW litters.