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?

JYC Chou, Keelin K.M. O'Driscoll, DA Sandercock, RB D'Eath

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Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0241619
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume15
Issue number10
Early online date30 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 30 Oct 2020

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