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Home / Research / Departments / Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition / Disease mechanisms, -markers and -prevention / Projects finalised 2005 / Tail-biting: Preventive strategies - temporary interruption, correction and prevention

Tail-biting: Preventive strategies - temporary interruption, correction and prevention

Tail biting is a behavioural vice in growing pigs. It is widespread throughout the EU and causes major welfare problems and economic loss. Many studies have been carried out on this issue. These studies have indicated that many factors (both animal and environment related) play a role in the occurrence of tail biting. However, tail biting in pigs is still an elusive problem, and no clear strategy is available in practice to prevent pigs from tail biting or reduce tail biting behaviour in problem herds. To improve animal welfare and production economy, the aim of the project is

1) to develop short term methods to interrupt tail biting,

2) to develop long term strategies for troubleshooting with respect to tail biting in individual pig herds, and

3) to develop a research tool for studying causation.

The project consists of three sub-projects:

1. Nutritional and environmental factors temporarily interrupting tail biting. In practice time is needed for identification and elimination of environmental factors causing tail biting. Thus, temporary ‘shut off’ of tail biting until the problem could be properly handled will be of considerable value for animal welfare in practice. Re-direction of the behaviour by environmental enrichment as well as dietary manipulations affecting the neuro-endocrine basis of the stress response will be tested in herds.

2. Development of a decision support system for analysing the causation and collecting experience concerning tail biting at herd level. A preliminary decision support system based on the available knowledge and experience will be built by use of Bayesian network. The system will be used for diagnosis in selected herds with tail biting. Intervention studies will be carried out in the herds, and further elaboration, validation and learning of system parameters will be performed based on the results from these studies.

3. Development of a research tool for pointing out factors, which have the potency to provoke tail biting. Studies on the interaction between the behaviour and the neuro-endocrinological system indicate that the state immediately preceding tail biting could be induced by drugs affecting the dopaminergic neural activity. Therefore, use of such drugs followed by presentation of risk factors for tail biting should be potent in provoking tail-in-mouth behaviour without producing injurious tail biting. Based on this hypothesis dose-response experiments on relevant drugs will be performed using the social behaviour as response to develop a research tool for pointing out factors, which have the potency to provoke tail biting.

Responsible: Senior scientist Karin Hjelholt Jensen

Project period: 01.01.2002 - 31.12.2005

Partners: Dept. of Genetics and Biotechnology (DIAS), The National Committee for Pig Production, approx. 20 farmers

Last updated: Thursday 21 June 2007 - [email protected]