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Fresh wood reduces tail and ear biting and increases exploratory behaviour in finishing pigs

By H. Telkanranta, M. B. M. Bracke, A. Valros

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Chewing and rooting are high behavioural priorities in pigs. Lack of suitable materials can lead to abnormal behaviours such as tail and ear biting. In commercial farming, slatted floors limit the use of straw, and various point-source objects have therefore been developed. The crucial challenge is to design objects that improve welfare at minimal material and labour costs. The aim of this study was to test three low-cost objects: branching metal chains, polythene pipe crosses and fresh wood. The study was carried out on undocked growing-finishing pigs on a commercial farm in Finland, housed on partly slatted floors in 10-m 2 pens of 11 pigs. The total number of pigs at the time of data collection was 780, as the farmer had removed 23 of the original pigs due to tail biting. The control pens ( N=17) had a straw rack, a metal chain and a daily provision of wood shavings. The experimental pens had the same and one of the following: the wood pens ( N=14) had horizontally suspended pieces of fresh birch wood (O 10 cm), 30 cm per pig; the plastic pens ( N=13) had a cross of 60-cm polythene pipes (O 5 cm), hanging from the ceiling; the branching-chain pens ( N =15) had two crosses of metal chains, suspended vertically; and the combination pens ( N=14) had all of the above. After 2.5 months of exposure to the objects, the pigs were video-recorded, and tail and ear damage were scored.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 161
Pages 51-59
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.09.007
Language English
Author Address Department of Production Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 57, 00014,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal genetics
  3. Animal nutrition
  4. Animals
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  7. Commerce
  8. Costs
  9. Crossbreds
  10. Data collection
  11. Developed countries
  12. Documentation
  13. Ear
  14. Enrichment
  15. Europe
  16. Farms
  17. Finishing
  18. Finland
  19. Floors
  20. Genetics
  21. Information
  22. Mammals
  23. Meat animals
  24. OECD countries
  25. peer-reviewed
  26. pens
  27. Pigs
  28. plasticity
  29. Scandinavia
  30. Straw
  31. Suiformes
  32. ungulates
  33. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed