Four Tips on How to Prevent Tail-biting in Pigs
Start with the basics: Feed, water, ventilation, temperature and stocking density
Feed: Providing ready access to feed is essential for optimizing average daily gains. Conversely, restriction of or inadequate access to feed will cause slower growth and can contribute to aggressive behavior, such as tail-biting. Feed restriction is most commonly caused by out-of-feed events that are the result of equipment malfunctions, feed bridging or feed management errors. The second-most common cause of feed restriction is feeder settings being adjusted too tightly.
Water: Just as with feed, it is important to provide ready access to drinking water. Restricting the water intake of pigs can lead to reduced feed intakes and may also contribute to aggressive behavior. Make sure all of the pigs have enough water access points and that the flow rate is adequate enough to meet their water needs.
Ventilation: Poor ventilation, especially in the late fall and winter months, can quickly induce aggressive behaviors. Make sure the ventilation is adequate enough to at least remove pit gasses from your facility. Poor air quality in barns irritates animals and is a major catalyst accelerating aggression in pigs.
Temperature: In warmer months, heat stress is of great concern and is something that barn managers and employees should keep an eye on. When pigs reach their upper critical temperature, they begin to experience heat stress, which can trigger negative behaviors, such as tail-biting.
Stocking density: Overstocking induces extra stress in animals due to the increased competition for feed and water resources in the pen. As such, it is critically important to relieve stocking density by evenly distributing pigs throughout all of the pens. Limited space in pens is a common trigger for tail-biting.
Provide balanced nutrition
Nutritional imbalances or improperly balanced diets are contributing factors that can increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior. Under-budgeting and/or under-formulating lysine for high lean growth genetics can lead to vice behavior by restricting the genetic growth potential of the animal. Inadequate sodium in the diet can also lead to aggressive behavior.
Look for signs of health challenges
Significant viral challenges, like PRRS and the flu, can lead to increased incidences of aggressive behavior in pigs. Consult your veterinarian on the best course of action to relieve any health challenges in your operation.
Keep calm and entertain
Pigs are naturally very curious animals that utilize their mouths as a means of exploring and learning more about their environment. As such, providing enrichment that is stimulating and that biologically relieves stress is crucial.
Contributed by Jamie Pietig