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Tail posture predicts tail damage among weaned piglets

By J. J. Zonderland, J. W. van Riel, M. B. M. Bracke, B. Kemp, L. A. den Hartog, H. A. M. Spoolder

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Tail biting in pigs is a widespread behavioural vice with significant animal welfare and economic consequences. All too often, tail biting is not diagnosed nor dealt with until tail damage is present. To effectively reduce the negative effects of tail biting, it must be diagnosed in an early stage. So far no predictors for tail damage have been found. Predictors that recognise tail biting in an early stage, however, would be helpful in practice. We tested the hypothesis that tail behaviour can predict tail damage. To analyse this, we observed tail posture, tail motion and tail damage of 992 weaned piglets on an experimental farm with known tail biting problems. Tail posture (curled tail, hanging tail or tail between legs), tail motion (motionless, wagging or intense wagging) and tail damage (no damage, bite marks or a tail wound) were observed three times a week during the 32 days post-weaning period. Results showed that both tail posture and tail motion were related to tail damage at the same observation moment (P<0.001). Furthermore, tail posture could predict tail damage (P<0.001), but tail motion had no predictive value for tail damage (P>0.05). When a piglet was observed with a curled tail (and no tail damage), the chance of bite marks or a tail wound 2-3 days later were 8.6% and 3.5

Date 2009
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 121
Issue 3/4
Pages 165-170
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2009.09.002
Language English
Author Address Wageningen UR Livestock Research, P.O. Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, Netherlands.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Economics
  6. Effect
  7. Mammals
  8. Meat animals
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Pigs
  11. Posture
  12. practices
  13. predictions
  14. predictors
  15. Swine
  1. peer-reviewed