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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2024

Impact of feed, light and access to manipulable material on tail biting in pigs with intact tails

Wallgren, Per; Johansson, Magnus; Wallgren, Torun; Susic, Zeljko; Sigfridson, Kerstin; Johansson, Sven-Erik

Abstract

Background Tail biting (TB) is a welfare issue with economic consequences due to infections and ill-thrift. This study aimed to reduce tail injuries in a high-performing non-tail-docking pig herd.Results During eleven years preceding the trial, the annual incidence of tail injuries registered at slaughter in pigs from the herd increased from 3% (equivalent to the national mean) to 10%. It was positively correlated to a high weight gain and negatively correlated to daylight length.The overall incidence of tail injuries during the four years preceding the trial was 9.2% with significant differences between four identically structured buildings for fatteners (I < II < III < IV).The feed was enriched with amino acids, minerals and fibres. The buildings used different illumination strategies, I: standard fluorescent tubes with an invisible flickering light of 30-40% for 14 h daily, II: non-flickering led light for 14 h daily, III (control) and IV: standard fluorescent tubes for 2 h daily. IV had free access to manipulable material (hay-silage), while I-III was offered 100-200 g daily.During the adaptation period (6 months), the incidence of tail injuries decreased significantly in all buildings to a mean of 5.4%. The largest decrease (from 11.4 to 4.3%) was obtained in IV.During the trial period (12 months), the mean incidence of tail injuries decreased in all groups to a mean of 3.0%. There were no differences in treatment incidences of individual pigs due to TB between groups, but the use of enriched pellets due to TB in pens was lowest in II. The low incidence of tail injuries was retained during the post-trial period (6 months) when all buildings used artificial illumination for two hours per day.Conclusions The incidence of TB in fast growing non-tail-docked pigs in the herd was successfully reduced by supplementing the feed with amino acids, minerals, vitamins and fibres. Additional manipulable material accelerated that process and non-flickering illumination may have had an impact in preventing TB.The results obtained do not support the need for tail-docking of pigs, provided that the needs of the pigs in terms of feed ingredients, stocking density and access to manipulable materials are fulfilled.

Keywords

Daylength; Hay silage; Illumination

Published in

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica
2024, Volume: 66, number: 1, article number: 2
Publisher: BMC