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).

Abstract

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.