Monthly Archives: January 2020

Tail biting and straw usage in Swedish farms

To rear pigs with intact tails

Did you know that over 90% of pigs are tail docked in the EU? During the pig’s first week of life, the tail is docked and its length reduced. The reason for this is that pigs later in life can start biting each other on the tail, which affects both their health and production. A shorter tail reduces the risk of tail biting, but is also associated with both acute and long-term pain while not solving the underlying problem.

Read more on how to rear pigs with intact tails.

See the brochure ‘Tail biting and straw usage in Swedish farms‘ .

Review: Early life predisposing factors for biting in pigs

Prunier, A., X. Averos, I. Dimitrov, S. A. Edwards, E. Hillmann, M. Holinger, V. Ilieski, R. Leming, C. Tallet, S. P. Turner, M. Zupan and I. Camerlink, 2019. Review: Early life predisposing factors for biting in pigs. Animal.

The pig industry faces many animal welfare issues. Among these, biting behaviour has a high incidence. It is indicative of an existing problem in biters and is a source of physical damage and psychological stress for the victims. We categorize this behaviour into aggressive and non-aggressive biting, the latter often being directed towards the tail. This review focusses specifically on predisposing factors in early life, comprising the prenatal and postnatal periods up to weaning, for the expression of aggressive and non-aggressive biting later in life. The influence of personality and coping style has been examined in a few studies. It varies according to these studies and, thus, further evaluation is needed. Regarding the effect of environmental factors, the number of scientific papers is low (less than five papers for most factors). No clear influence of prenatal factors has been identified to date. Aggressive biting is reduced by undernutrition, cross-fostering and socialization before weaning. Non-aggressive biting is increased by undernutrition, social stress due to competition and cross-fostering. These latter three factors are highly dependent on litter size at birth. The use of familiar odours may contribute to reducing biting when pigs are moved from one environment to another by alleviating the level of stress associated with novelty. Even though the current environment in which pigs are expressing biting behaviours is of major importance, the pre-weaning environment should be optimized to reduce the likelihood of this problem.

Evidence of Pain, Stress, and Fear of Humans During Tail Docking and the Next Four Weeks in Piglets (Sus scrofa domesticus)

Céline Tallet, Marine Rakotomahandry, Sabine Herlemont and Armelle Prunier, 2019. Evidence of Pain, Stress, and Fear of Humans During Tail Docking and the Next Four Weeks in Piglets (Sus scrofa domesticus). Front. Vet. Sci., 11 December 2019|


Tail docking is widely performed in pig farms to prevent tail biting. We investigated the consequences of this practice on behavioral indicators of pain and stress, and on the human-piglet relationship during lactation. Within 19 litters, piglets (1–3 days of age) were submitted on day 0 (D0) to docking with a cautery iron (D), sham-docking (S), or no docking (U). Piglets from the D and S groups were observed during the procedure (body movements and vocalizations) and just after, in isolation, during 20 s for body, tail and ear postures as well as ear movements. Piglets from the three treatments were observed in their home pen after docking on D0 and D3 afternoon for body posture, tail posture and movements. Piglets from the D and U groups were observed on D6, D12, D19, and D26 in their home pen for oral behavior, body, and tail posture. Tail damage and tear staining were scored on D5, D11, D18, and D25. A 5-min motionless human test was performed on D14. During the procedure, D piglets screamed more and with a higher intensity (P < 0.05) than S piglets (n = 48–50). Just after docking, D piglets held their ears in a posture perpendicular to the head-tail axis and changed their ear posture more often (P < 0.05). Between D6 and D26, D piglets kept their tail immobile (P < 0.001) and in a horizontal position (P < 0.01) more often than U piglets (n = 45–47). Between D11 and D25, U piglets had higher scores for tail damage and damage freshness than D piglets (0.09 < P < 0.02) whereas tear-stain score was similar. In the human test, D piglets interacted later with an unfamiliar human than U piglets (P = 0.01, n = 18/group). Present data indicate signs of acute pain and stress in piglets due to docking during the procedure itself and adverse consequences throughout lactation thereafter, including on their relationship with humans. On the other hand, the presence of tail lesions shows that undocked piglets are subject to more tail biting, even before weaning

Physiology, Behaviour, Productivity and Meat Quality of Pigs Raised in a Hot Climate

Physiology, Behaviour, Productivity and Meat Quality of Pigs Raised in a Hot Climate.

Emma Fàbrega, Míriam Marcet-Rius, Roger Vidal, Damián Escribano, José Joaquín Cerón, Xavier Manteca, Antonio Velardem, 2019. Animals 9; doi:10.3390/ani9050235.

Abstract: Some positive effects regarding the use of enrichment material on the stimulation of pig exploration and a reduction in redirected behaviour was reported. This study aims to evaluate the effects of four enrichment materials on the behaviour, physiology/health, performance and carcass and meat quality in pigs kept in Spanish production conditions. Ninety-six male pigs (six pigs/pen) ranging from 70 to 170 days old were used. Chains were used for the control group (CH), and wooden logs (W), straw in a rack (S) or paper (P) were also used. The pigs were subjected to two pre-slaughter treatments: 0 or 12 hours of fasting. Their behaviour was observed for 12 weeks using scan and focal sampling. Samples of the Neutrophil: Lymphocyte (N:L) ratio and lactate were obtained from the pigs at 66 and 170 days old. Saliva samples for Chromogranin-A (CgA) were obtained at 67, 128, 164 and 170 days old. The weight, skin lesions and feed intake of the pigs were recorded. S triggered more exploratory behaviour than W and CH (P < 0.001). Skin lesions and redirected behaviour were lower for pigs with S (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively). The pigs offered S presented lower CgA after no fasting than pigs with P or CH (P = 0.055). Lactate was higher in pigs with W and CH treatments, regardless of fasting (P < 0.05). The N:L ratio increased over time (P < 0.05). No other significant effects were found. Overall, straw in a rack was the enrichment material that enhanced pig inherent behaviour.

Evidence for a link between tail biting and central monoamine metabolism in pigs (Sus scrofa domestica)

Valros A, Palander P, Heinonen M, Munsterhjelm C, Brunberg E, Keeling L, Piepponen, P, 2015. Evidence for a link between tail biting and central monoamine metabolism in pigs (Sus scrofa domestica). Physiol Behav.143:151-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.02.049.
Tail biting in pigs is a major welfare problem within the swine industry. Even though there is plenty of information on housing and management-related risk factors, the biological bases of this behavioral problem are poorly understood. The aim of this study was to investigate a possible link between tail biting, based on behavioral recordings of pigs during an ongoing outbreak, and certain neurotransmitters in different brain regions of these pigs. We used a total of 33 pigs at a farm with a long-standing problem of tail biting. Three equally big behavioral phenotypic groups, balanced for gender and age were selected, the data thus consisting of 11 trios of pigs. Two of the pigs in each trio originated from the same pen: one tail biter (TB) and one tail biting victim (V). A control (C) pig was selected from a pen without significant tail biting in the same farm room. We found an effect of tail biting behavioral phenotype on the metabolism of serotonin and dopamine, with a tendency for a higher 5-HIAA level in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of TB compared to the other groups, while V pigs showed changes in both serotonin and dopamine metabolism in the striatum (ST) and limbic cortex (LC). Trp:BCAA and Trp:LNAA correlated positively with serotonin and 5-HIAA in the PFC, but only in TB pigs. Furthermore, in both ST and LC, several of the neurotransmitters and their metabolites correlated positively with the frequency of bites received by the pig. This is the first study indicating a link between brain neurotransmission and tail biting behavior in pigs with TB pigs showing a tendency for increased PFC serotonin metabolism and V pigs showing several changes in central dopamine and serotonin metabolism in their ST and LC, possibly due to the acute stress caused by being bitten. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.