• Can increased dietary fibre level and a single enrichment device reduce the risk of tail biting in undocked growing-finishing pigs in fully slatted systems?

      Chou, Jen-Yun; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Sandercock, Dale A.; D’Eath, Rick B.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Scotland’s Rural College; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2020-10-30)
      This study evaluated the effectiveness of combined dietary and enrichment strategies to manage tail biting in pigs with intact tails in a conventional fully-slatted floor housing system. A 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design was used. Pigs had either a high fibre (weaner 5.3% and finisher 11.6% of crude fibre) or standard fibre diet (weaner 3.7% and finisher 5.9% of crude fibre). In the weaner stage, pigs had either a spruce wooden post (supplied in a wall-mounted dispenser) or a rubber floor toy as a enrichment device, and in the finisher stage, they had either the same or alternate enrichment item. Six hundred and seventy-two pigs were assigned to 48 pens of 14 pigs and followed from weaning until slaughter. Individual tail lesion scores and pen level behaviours were directly recorded every 2 weeks. Twenty-six pens had tail biting outbreaks and 161 injured pigs needed removal for treatment. Pigs fed with the high fibre diet performed more tail biting (p < 0.05) and tended to have a worse tail damage scores than those fed the standard fibre diet (p = 0.08). Pigs which had the floor toy as weaners and wood as finishers tended to have fewer tail lesions in the finisher stage than their counterparts (p = 0.06). Pigs receiving the floor toy as enrichment interacted with the enrichment more frequently overall (p < 0.001) and performed fewer harmful behaviours in the weaner stage (p < 0.05). Overall, higher fibre in the diet in a relatively barren environment did not help reduce tail biting or tail lesions. Altering the fibre level in the pigs’ diet and providing a single enrichment device to undocked pigs on fully slatted floors resulted in a high level of tail biting and a large proportion of pigs with partial tail amputation.
    • Damaging Behaviour and Associated Lesions in Relation to Types of Enrichment for Finisher Pigs on Commercial Farms

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Hanlon, Alison; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 11/S/107 (MDPI AG, 2019-09-12)
      EU legislation states that all pigs must have access to material that allows them to perform investigation and manipulation activities, thereby reducing the risk of pigs performing damaging behaviours (e.g., tail, ear and flank biting). We aimed to determine associations between damaging behaviours performed by finisher pigs, the related lesions and the use of different types of enrichment. Six randomly selected pens of finisher pigs were observed for 10 min each on 31 commercial pig farms in Ireland. All pigs were counted and the number of pigs affected by tail, ear and flank lesions was recorded. During the last 5 min, all occurrences of damaging behaviour (tail-, ear- and flank-directed behaviour) were recorded. The type (chain, plastic or wood) and number of accessible enrichment objects/pen was recorded. Chains were the most common (41.4% of farms), followed by plastic (37.9%) and wood (20.7%). Damaging behaviour was more frequent on farms that provided chains compared to plastic or wood. Farms with chains were associated with a higher frequency of flank-directed behaviour and tended to be associated with a higher frequency of tail-directed behaviour compared to farms that provided plastic devices. The prevalence of lesions tended to be higher on farms where chains were provided compared to wooden enrichment devices, mostly driven by a difference in the prevalence of mild tail lesions. Results support expert opinions that despite being commonly used, chains did not fulfill a role in reducing damaging behaviours and associated lesions in finisher pigs compared to other forms of enrichment.
    • Multi-Step Tail Biting Outbreak Intervention Protocols for Pigs Housed on Slatted Floors.

      Chou, Jen-Yun; O'Driscoll, Keelin; D'Eath, Rick B; Sandercock, Dale A; Camerlink, Irene; European Cooperation in Science and Technology; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Rural & Environmental Science & Analytical Services, Scotland (MDPI, 2019-08-20)
      Solutions are needed to keep pigs under commercial conditions without tail biting outbreaks (TBOs). However, as TBOs are inevitable, even in well managed farms, it is crucial to know how to manage TBOs when they occur. We evaluated the effectiveness of multi-step intervention protocols to control TBOs. Across 96 pens (1248 undocked pigs) managed on fully-slatted floors, 40 TBOs were recorded ( 3 out of 12–14 pigs with fresh tail wounds). When an outbreak was identified, either the biters or the victims were removed, or enrichment (three ropes) was added. If the intervention failed, another intervention was randomly used until all three interventions had been deployed once. Fifty percent of TBOs were controlled after one intervention, 30% after 2–3 interventions, and 20% remained uncontrolled. A high proportion of biters/victims per pen reduced intervention success more so than the type of intervention. When only one intervention was used, adding ropes was the fastest method to overcome TBOs. Removed biters and victims were successfully reintroduced within 14 days back to their home pens. In conclusion, 80% of TBOs were successfully controlled within 18.4 1.7 days on average using one or multiple cost-effective intervention strategies.
    • Rearing Undocked Pigs on Fully Slatted Floors Using Multiple Types and Variations of Enrichment

      Chou, Jen-Yun; Drique, Constance; Sandercock, Dale; D’Eath, Rick; O’Driscoll, Keelin (MDPI AG, 2019-04-02)
      In fully slatted systems, tail biting is difficult to manage when pigs’ tails are not docked because loose enrichment material can obstruct slurry systems. This pilot study sought to determine: a) whether intact-tailed pigs can be reared with a manageable level of tail biting by using multiple slat-compatible enrichment; b) whether a variation of enrichment has an effect; and c) whether pigs show a preference in enrichment use. Ninety-six undocked pigs were given the same enrichment items from one week after birth until weaning. At weaning, four different combinations of 8 enrichment items were utilized based on predefined characteristics. These were randomly assigned to 8 pens (n = 12 pigs/pen). Four pens had the same combination (SAME) from assignment and four pens switched combinations every two weeks (SWITCH). Individual lesion scores, interactions with the enrichment, and harmful behaviours were recorded. The average tail score during the experiment was low (0.93 ± 0.02). Only one pig in a SAME pen had a severely bitten tail (partly amputated). The overall level of interaction with enrichment did not decline over time. Pigs interacted with a rack of loose material most frequently (p < 0.001). The study showed promising results for rearing undocked pigs on fully slatted floors using slat-compatible enrichment.
    • Rearing Undocked Pigs on Fully Slatted Floors Using Multiple Types and Variations of Enrichment

      Chou, Jen-Yun; Drique, Constance; Sandercock, Dale; D'Eath, Rick; O'Driscoll, Keelin (MDPI AG, 2019-04-02)
      In fully slatted systems, tail biting is difficult to manage when pigs’ tails are not docked because loose enrichment material can obstruct slurry systems. This pilot study sought to determine: a) whether intact-tailed pigs can be reared with a manageable level of tail biting by using multiple slat-compatible enrichment; b) whether a variation of enrichment has an effect; and c) whether pigs show a preference in enrichment use. Ninety-six undocked pigs were given the same enrichment items from one week after birth until weaning. At weaning, four different combinations of 8 enrichment items were utilized based on predefined characteristics. These were randomly assigned to 8 pens (n = 12 pigs/pen). Four pens had the same combination (SAME) from assignment and four pens switched combinations every two weeks (SWITCH). Individual lesion scores, interactions with the enrichment, and harmful behaviours were recorded. The average tail score during the experiment was low (0.93 ± 0.02). Only one pig in a SAME pen had a severely bitten tail (partly amputated). The overall level of interaction with enrichment did not decline over time. Pigs interacted with a rack of loose material most frequently (p < 0.001). The study showed promising results for rearing undocked pigs on fully slatted floors using slat-compatible enrichment.