Did you know that over 90% of pigs are tail docked in the EU? During the pig's first week of life, the tail is docked and its length reduced. The reason for this is that pigs later in life can start biting each other on the tail, which affects both their health and production. A shorter tail reduces the risk of tail biting, but is also associated with both acute and long-term pain while not solving the underlying problem.
Wild pigs do not tail bite
So what is the underlying problem, why do the pigs start to tail bite? Tail biting is mainly a sign that the pigs do not have an outlet for their natural behaviour. In the wild, they spend their main time exploring their surroundings to find food, sleeping places and identifying dangers. Although we, under production conditions, provide the pigs with a safe place, feed and sleeping places, they still have this explorative need. If they do not get an outlet for their explorative behaviour, it can be redirected at other pigs, and tail biting occurs.
Swedish producers do not tail dock
So instead of docking the tails, preventing them from showing the symptoms of not meeting their behavioural needs, we can try to solve the problem. In Sweden, tail docking is forbidden through national law, and instead Swedish producers work with enrichment to try to meet the pigs' behavioural needs.
How can pigs be reared without risking tail biting?
Tail docking is also prohibited through EU legislation, but the ban has not been implemented. In the EU project FareWellDock, we wanted to gather information on how to produce pigs in the EU without tail docking or risking tail biting to facilitate EU producers to produce pigs with intact tails. In this work, Swedish producers and their experiences were an important part. We have therefore gathered information on how Sweden produces pigs without tail docking and how pigs' behaviour and tail injuries are affected by giving them material (straw) to investigate.
What can Swedish producers learn from this?
We believe that also Swedish producers benefit from the information we have compiled and the results we have obtained. These include for example how different amounts of straw affect the occurrence of tail biting or how it works with the manure handling system. Therefore, we have compiled a number of fact sheets specifically aimed at producers, to disseminate this information. See below.
At the end of this page you will also find information from the EU project FareWellDock (FareWellDock.eu), as well as the scientifically published articles that we have published in the project and related projects
Do you have questions or comments? Contact Torun Wallgren