One in ten pigs raised for meat suffers bite injuries if farmers stop docking the tails. This result comes from applied research by Marion Kluivers at VIC Sterksel.
Tail biting is an old problem in pig farming and to combat it, the tails are docked. Given the call in society for improvements to animal welfare, farming organizations are looking at how to phase this out.
Kluivers tracked 1428 piglets that had not been docked over a period of two years. She looked at whether the pigs had wounds on their tails. That turned out to be the case for ten percent of the animals. Kluivers found that good management can help reduce tail biting on farms. Pigs held in stalls with plenty of ‘toys’, such as bits of wood, rope, a jute sack and roughage, concentrate on that material and are less likely to bite one another. Placing extra feed troughs in the stalls also helps because that stops one pig chasing the others away from the feed trough by biting their tails.
A surprising find was that piglets sometimes start gnawing on tails when aged only three to four weeks. Pig farmers can take measures to prevent this by placing objects to distract the piglets in the farrowing pen.