Chou, J., O’Driscoll, K., Sandercock, D. A. et al. 2020. 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? PLoS ONE 15(10), e0241619.
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.