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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

The gut microbiota and microbial metabolites are associated with tail biting in pigs

Verbeek, Else; Keeling, Linda; Landberg, Rikard; Lindberg, Jan Erik; Dicksved, Johan


Tail biting is an abnormal behaviour that causes stress, injury and pain. Given the critical role of the gut-microbiota in the development of behavioural problems in humans and animals, the aim of this study was to determine whether pigs that are biters, victims of tail biting or controls (nine matched sets of pigs) have a different microbiota composition, diversity and microbial metabolite profile. We collected faecal and blood samples from each individual for analysis. The gut microbiota composition was most different between the biter and the control pigs, with a higher relative abundance of Firmicutes in tail biter pigs than the controls. Furthermore, we detected differences in faecal and plasma short chain fatty acids (SCFA) profiles between the biter and victim pigs, suggesting physiological differences even though they are kept in the same pen. Thus, in addition to supporting an association between the gut microbiota and tail biting in pigs, this study also provides the first evidence of an association between tail biting and SCFA. Therefore, further research is needed to confirm these associations, to determine causality and to study how the SCFA profiles of an individual play a role in the development of tail biting behaviour.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2021, Volume: 11, number: 1, article number: 20547