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Quick Guide to: Tail biting

By dr Andrew Tucker, CS Vet
What is tail biting?

Tail biting in pigs can be seen in the weaner or grower phase and is an indication of a stressor/s having an effect on the pigs. Infection of the bitten area can lead to a localised infection or more severely can lead to infection of the blood, spinal abscessation or joint ill to mention a few. These conditions can in severe cases lead to paralysis or death.
What causes tail biting?
Any factor causing the pig to stress can potentially cause tail biting if severe enough. Often it is a combination of stressors that add up push the stress level over a threshold and result in tail biting. Stressors commonly linked to tail biting include inadequate ventilation, high humidity, drafts, inadequate rations, hot or cold temperatures, overstocking of pens, inadequate feeder space, inadequate access to water or feed, variation in size of pigs housed together and disease.
How do you treat and prevent tail biting?
Treatment can be very successful if the condition is noticed and treated early. Treatment includes antimicrobial therapy and anti-inflammatory treatment when needed. It is important to stop the biting and this may mean moving affected pigs to alternate accommodation, isolating a problem pig that is biting and putting a bitter tasting preparation onto the tail to discourage biting.
Identifying the cause of the biting is important to stop the biting as well as to prevent biting in other groups of pigs. Docking of tails in the first 
24 hours after birth can help to reduce the incidence of tail biting in older pigs.
References:
Pig Diseases – D.J. Taylor; Diseases of Swine – Straw, Zimmerman, D’Allaire, Taylor

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