Husbandry interventions in suckling piglets, painful consequences and mitigation

Armelle Prunier*, Nicholas Devillers, Mette S Herskin, DA Sandercock, Anna Rea Louise Sinclair, Celine Tallet, Eberhard von Borell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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During their first days of postnatal life, piglets reared for meat production are often subjected to numerous husbandry practices that cause injury of sensitive tissues and hence are potential sources of pain. The intensity and duration of the pain engendered depend on the nature and magnitude of tissue damage. Each of these practices is carried out for specific reasons, such as preventing boar taint (castration), reducing the risk of tail biting (tail docking), limiting lesions on siblings and the sow’s teats (tooth resection), improving health (injections) or identifying animals (ear tagging or notching). This chapter will discuss the rationale and methods used, the evidence of pain during and shortly after the procedure, the long-term pain consequences, the consequences for health and human-animal relationships, the current options for pain mitigation and the pros and cons of avoiding these practices completely. Solutions are emerging to minimise the industry’s dependence on these practices and, when still considered necessary, to enable selection of the least painful option and best mitigate any residual pain. A better knowledge of the affective component of the pain involved in the practices as well as the establishment of standard and validated protocols of pain evaluation are needed in order to move forward and determine the best solutions from an animal welfare perspective and feasibility by farmers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Suckling and Weaned Piglet
EditorsChantal Farmer
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-894-0
ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-343-3
Publication statusPrint publication - 14 Sept 2020


  • Tail docking
  • Castration
  • Tooth resection
  • Stress
  • Behaviour
  • Pain
  • Husbandry


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