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Research impact highlights - Pigs

Addressing tail biting on Irish pig farms

Keelin O’Driscoll and Laura Boyle

Tail biting is a serious welfare and economic concern in the pig industry. The causes are complex, and include a wide range of risk factors. Although prohibited, the most common preventative strategy for tail biting in the EU is to dock pigs’ tails shortly after birth. To improve compliance across member states and identify and address specific risks, it is recommended that risk assessments for tail biting are carried out on-farm.

In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Animal Health Ireland, Teagasc researchers developed a Tail Biting Risk Factor Assessment protocol. They have provided training on its use for pig specialist Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVPs). During 2020, a scheme for pig producers allowing them a free risk assessment by their PVP became fully operational. This was taken up by 46% of producers, indicating a growing awareness of the need to reduce docking and that efforts are being taken by both producers and PVPs to enable this. Moreover, summaries of the primary risk factors on Irish pig farms can now be compiled and used to tailor national advice and strategies to reduce docking.

Correspondence: keelin.odriscoll@teagasc.ie
Other contributors: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Animal Health Ireland.
Funding: Teagasc grant-in-aid; Animal Health Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.