Science - October 28, 2010

Fat male piggies get their tails bitten more often

Pig farmers can identify culprits and victims of tail biting days before an attack, and so take preventive steps. This concludes Johan Zonderland in his PhD thesis.

Observant pig farmers can tell from the behaviour of biters and victims whether an attack of tail biting is about to take place. The biter in a pair of pigs begins to pick on the other already six days before the onslaught.
Sows, more than boars, are the biters. Biters are treated aggressively more often then the others, and have no preference for any particular shed occupants. Victims are often males. They start to get uneasy already in the week before the attack and often act aggressively towards their shed mates, are heavier than the rest and often walk with their tails between their legs.
Diversions such as straw can help to prevent most cases of tail biting. Should tail biting still happen, the farmer can reduce its extent by taking the biter out of the group and introducing extra materials for diversion, says Zonderland. He will graduate on 29 October in Wageningen and emigrate to New Zealand afterwards.