Buijs, S., Muns, R. 2019. A review of the effects of non-straw enrichment on tail biting in pigs. Animals 9(10), 824.
Tail biting remains a common problem in pig production. As producers are reluctant to use straw to reduce this behaviour, we review studies on the effectiveness of other types of enrichment. Roughage, hessian sacks, compost, fresh wood, space dividers, rope, and providing new objects regularly can significantly reduce tail damage. These results should be interpreted with some caution, as often only one study per enrichment could be identified. No evidence was found that commonly applied enrichment objects (processed wood, plastic or metal) reduce tail biting significantly unless exchanged regularly, even though multiple studies per type of enrichment were identified. Many studies evaluated the duration of enrichment use, but few evaluated the manner of use. This hampers identification of combinations of enrichment that will satisfy the pig's motivation to eat/smell, bite, root and change enrichments, which is suggested to reduce tail biting. New objects designed to satisfy specific motivations were shown to receive high levels of interaction, but their effectiveness at reducing tail damage remains unknown. More in-depth study of how pigs interact with non-straw enrichment, which motivations this satisfies and how this affects behaviour towards conspecifics, is necessary to optimize enrichment strategies. Optimization is necessary because ceasing tail docking in a way that improves pig welfare requires more effective enrichments than those described in this review, or alternatively, better control over other factors influencing tail biting.