Factors identifying pigs predisposed to tail biting

V. E. Beattie, K. Breuer, N. E. O'Connell, I. A. Sneddon, J. T. Mercer, K. A. Rance, M. E. M. Sutcliffe, S. A. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)
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Approximately 5% of pigs slaughtered in the UK have been tail-bitten, leading to welfare and production issues. Tail biting is sporadic and not all pigs tail bite. The aim of this study was to identify factors that are common in pigs that perform tail-biting behaviour, and that might be used in a predictive way to identify such animals.

The behaviour of 159 pigs was observed in the post-weaning period. Pigs were weaned at 4 weeks of age. In the week prior to weaning and at 6 weeks of age each pig was individually tested in a tail chew test (tail chew test 1 and 2, respectively). The tail chew test involved recording the pig's behaviour directed towards two ropes, one of which had been soaked in saline solution and the other not. The production performance of the pigs was recorded from birth to 7 weeks of age. Time spent performing tail-biting behaviour correlated positively with time in contact with the rope in tail chew test 2 (r = 0.224, P 1.5% tail biting 8.96 kg, = 1.5% tail biting 15-75 kg, = or = 1.5% tail biting 260 g/day, = 1.5% tail biting 343 g/day, 0.05).

The results suggest that pigs that tail bite have some nutritional deficiency that results in performance of foraging behaviour that is expressed in intensive housing as ear/tail biting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-312
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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