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Tail biting behaviour and tail damage in pigs and the relationship with general behaviour: Predicting the inevitable?

By Winanda W. Ursinus, Cornelis G. Van Reenen, Bas Kemp, J. Elizabeth Bolhuis

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Abstract

Tail biting behaviour in pigs is a common problem in conventional housing systems. Our study examined the consistency over time in tail biting and tail damage and it explored the predictive value of general behaviours observed in individual pigs and in pens as a whole. Pigs (n=480), reared in conventional farrowing pens with a sow crate, were followed from pre-weaning to slaughter (23 weeks). Post-weaning, piglets were housed barren (B) or enriched (E). Behaviours were observed pre-weaning (averaged per litter) and post-weaning in three phases (weaner, grower, finisher) (averaged per pig/phase). Tail damage of individual pigs was scored weekly from weaning (4 weeks) onwards (averaged per phase). Relationships between tail biting and tail damage with behaviour were investigated both at individual and pen level using mixed or generalized linear mixed models and Spearman's rank correlations, respectively. Tail biting and tail damage (2.1±0.05, 1=no tail damage, 4=tail wound) were already observed pre-weaning. Post-weaning, tail biting and tail damage were less prevalent in E compared to B housing (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 156
Pages 22-36
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.04.001
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Tags
  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Bites and stings
  3. Environment
  4. Pigs
  5. tails