Science Page: Docking the tail or not: Effect on tail damage, skin lesions and growth performance

Pig tail
Credit: Jon Olav Eikenes

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week,  we are sharing a report by Dr. Yuzhi Li regarding the effects of tail docking in pigs.

Key points:

  • Many swine producers have been looking for an alternative to tail docking since it is a painful procedure for pigs.
  • A study examining welfare and performance of pigs with docked and undocked tails was performed
  • Performance was unaffected by tail docking, and it reduced incidence of tail damage

A study was conducted to evaluate the effect of tail docking on welfare and performance of growing-finishing pigs. Pigs, including 120 pigs that were tail-docked at birth and 120 pigs that remained with intact tails were used. Pigs were housed in 8 pens of 30 pigs in a
confinement barn for 16 weeks, with 4 pens each housing pigs of both sexes with docked or intact tails.

Results indicate that tail docking did not affect daily gain, feed intake, gain to feed ratio. During the study period, 5% of docked pigs were removed from their home pen due to tail damage, compared to 21% of intact pigs were removed for reasons associated with tail biting or tail damage. Consequently, 97% of docked pigs and 90% of intact pigs were sold for full value.

This study suggests that tail docking did not affect growth performance of pigs or eliminate occurrence of tail biting, but it reduced the incidence of
tail damage in pigs housed in a confinement system.

For more details, take a look at the full results table.

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