A longitudinal study of pre- A nd post-weaning tail damage in non-docked pigs

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Tail-biting occurs pre-weaning, but literature on tail damage during lactation and on the development of damage over time is sparse, especially for non-docked piglets. We assessed the prevalence of tail damage in non-docked piglets in a commercial Danish piggery during the lactation and weaning period, and investigated the within-animal association of tail lesions pre- A nd post-weaning. Non-docked piglets (n = 741) from 51 loose-housed sows were individually marked and tracked from birth to 9 weeks (w9) of age. Tail damage was scored during lactation at w1 and w4, and once a week post-weaning (average weaning age 30 days) at w6 to w9. The within-animal association of tail damage before and after weaning was investigated at pig level using generalized mixed models. Tail damage was prevalent already pre-weaning. During the lactation period, the prevalence of tail lesions was 5% at w1 and 42% at w4, with the most prevalent score being 'superficial damages' (66.7%, score 1; pre-weaning scheme: 0 = no damage, 3 = tail wound). Post-weaning, 45% of pigs had a tail lesion at least once over the four assessments, with 16.7% of pigs having a tail lesion at least at two assessments. The majority of lesions were 'minor scratches' (34.2%, score 1; post-weaning scheme: 0 = no damage, 4 = wound-necrotic tail end) and a 'scabbed wound' (19.9%, score 3). The number of pigs with lesions as well as wound severity increased over time. More pigs had a tail wound at w8 (15%, P < 0.001 and < 0.01) and w9 (19%, P < 0.001 and < 0.001) compared to w6 (2.7%) and w7 (5.6%). Pigs with tail lesions pre-weaning (w1: OR 3.0, 95% CI 0.9 to 10.2; w4: OR 3.4, 95% CI 2.0 to 5.8) had a significantly higher risk of having a wound post-weaning, and pigs with lesions at w4 additionally were at a higher risk (OR 3.0, 95% CI 1.8 to 5.1) of having a lesion over several assessments. Females compared to castrated males had a significantly lower risk of having tail lesions at w1 (OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.8). Similarly, females were at a significantly lower risk (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.4 to 0.9) of having a wound post-weaning, and tended to have a lower risk of having lesions over several assessments (OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.5 to 1.2). Our study confirmed that tail damage is prevalent already during the lactation period, and that pre-weaning tail damage is predictive of tail wounds post-weaning.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

    Research areas

  • early life, intact tails, piglets, tail lesion, tail-biting behaviour

ID: 242782005