Paradigm shift on the topic of tail biting
Prof. Dr. Steffen Hoy and Ina Jans-Wenstrup of the Justus Liebig University in Giessen found in a recent research funded by the QS Science Fund that there is currently no safe, repeatable, and therefore sustainable solution to prevent tail biting in pigs. They demand innovative solutions for prevention.
The project leaders suggest that the cause of tail biting (caudophagia) is a high level of actuation of the animals, for which interactions with the nesting partners are obviously more interesting than dealing with "inanimate" objects. Tail biting is therefore not classified as a behavioral disorder of the animals, but as the result of a species-typical exploratory behavior on the "wrong object". The researchers therefore strongly recommend a paradigm shift in the discussion of the causes of caudophagia. "We need a completely different approach to employ the cognitively very sophisticated and intelligent pigs so that they are not interested in the batten partners," explains Prof. Dr. Hoy. New solutions that are more attractive to the animals through the offer of different, changing stimuli need to be developed. "If all efforts do not lead to any reduction in the number of animal welfare-relevant injuries due to mutual tail biting, the intervention of the individual case must be carried out in the future, the docking of the last third of the tail," Hoy continues.
The scientists investigated whether the use of different pellets, in addition to the standard feed ration, in piglet rearing can be an effective solution against tail biting. The conclusion: The use of pellets is not a suitable preventive measure for piglets and pigs for fattening. Other investigated factors, such as gender, genotype or age of the mother had no or only a small effect on the behavior of the animals. In 14 rounds, a total of 1,376 piglets, to which the tails were not cropped, were compared with 1,190 piglets with cropped tails. The half-tailed piglets were half fed with the standard ration, the other half of the animals with the standard ration supplemented by straw, hay or hop cone pellets (as feed to compound feed and in hay pellets also to employment ad libitum). In all runs, a high percentage of tail biting was noted. The use of straw and hay pellets had no influence on the behavior of the
Animals, the use of the hop cone pellets showed differences in behavior, however, the proportion of partial or total losses of the tails was with more than 50 percent also very high.