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Ouch: Tail biting hurts welfare, economic performance

Chronic tail biting is a larger than expected problem with a substantial welfare and economic impacts, according to a new report from Teagasc.

Researchers from the PIGWELFIND project examined more than 13,000 carcasses from 61 farms for tail lesions after scalding and de-hairing. More than 25% of the carcasses exhibited moderate lesions — often associated with chronic tail-biting behavior — and more than 3% exhibited severe tail lesions.

While tail biting is an industry-wide problem, understanding and estimating the amount and severity of tail biting on farms varies widely. For instance, a survey of Dutch pig farmers shows that approximately 50% of farmers reported no problems with tail biting but considered tail biting to be severe if only one animal had a tail wound. Tail lesions are often difficult to assess on live animals due to poor lighting, crowding and lack of cleanliness.

Research shows that even moderate tail lesions are associated with carcass weight reductions of 1.2 kg. When combined with losses due to carcass condemnation, losses could total up to 1.69€ per pig.

The PIGWELFIND PROJECT is using carcass evaluation to identify systems with and without tail biting and compare their management plans. This information will help project researchers develop a system for producers to address contributing factors and remedies to reduce not only tail biting, but associated economic factors, including reduced carcass weights and increased condemnations.

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Ouch: Tail biting hurts welfare, economic performance
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