Date Full Report Received09/30/2009
Date Abstract Report Received09/30/2009
Funded ByNational Pork Board
Tail docking of piglets is a routine procedure on farms to control tail biting behavior, however docking can cause an acute stress response. The objectives of this research were to 1) determine if tail docking prevents tail biting behavior in pigs, 2) determine if different methods of tail docking influence the prevalence of tail biting and reduce the stress caused by tail docking, 3) evaluate different methods of analgesia on the pain response in pigs to tail docking. In experiment 1, tail biting lesion scores were similar among docked and non-docked at 3 and 5 weeks of age, however at 7 weeks of age lesion scores were greater among non-docked compared with tail docked pigs. Body weights were lower among non-docked compared docked pigs and C-Reactive protein (CRP) levels (an indirect measure of inflammation) was elevated among non-docked compared with tail docked pigs at 7 weeks of age. In experiment 2, piglets were tail docked at a length of 2 cm (Short) or 5 cm (Long). Tail biting lesion scores were greater among Long compared with Short pigs. In experiment 3, pigs were tail docked using conventional cutting (CUT), cautery (CAUT), conventional cutting while the pig was anesthetized with carbon dioxide gas (CO2), conventional cutting with local anesthetic administered immediately prior to cutting (LA), conventional cutting with short acting topical anesthetic administered immediately after cutting (SHORT), conventional cutting with long acting topical anesthetic administered immediately after cutting (LONG), or sham docked (CON). Cortisol concentrations were reduced in pig’s tail docked using cutting when a short acting topical anesthetic was applied to the wound. None of the other methods of analgesia were effective at reducing the cortisol response to tail docking in pigs, including using carbon dioxide as a form of general anesthesia. Pig’s tail docked without analgesia performed a higher percentage of lying-alone behavior compared with all other treatments. Body weight change and wound healing was not affected by tail docking treatment. Poor welfare of tail bitten pigs was indicated by severity of lesion, level of CRP, and reduced pig body weights. Until root causes of tail biting are understood and preventative measures adopted, the long term benefits of tail docking outweigh the acute stress caused by this procedure. More research is needed to find effective analgesic treatments that could reduce the distress caused by tail docking to the pigs and which are practical on-farm.