Effects of tail docking, teeth clipping explored

Effects of tail docking, teeth clipping explored

Study looks at effects of tail docking and teeth clipping in newborn pigs.

*John H. Goihl is president of Agri-Nutrition Services Inc., Shakopee, Minn. To expedite answers to questions concerning this article, please direct inquiries to Feedstuffs, Bottom Line of Nutrition, 7900 International Dr., Suite 650, Bloomington, Minn. 55425, or email [email protected]

COMMON management practices when processing newborn piglets are tail docking and teeth clipping.

The purpose of teeth clipping is to prevent pigs from injuring their littermates and to reduce damage to the udder of the sow during nursing. Researchers have reported that teeth clipping can decrease survival rates among the lightest pigs as well as cause pulpitis, gingivitis and teeth splintering if teeth are clipped close to the gumline.

Tail docking is done to prevent tail biting among pigs, especially those pigs reared in higher stocking densities typical of confinement buildings. Other contributors to tail biting include poor ventilation, nutrient deficiencies, poor health status, genetics and overcrowding. Tail biting can lead to a reduction in growth performance and an increased incidence of infection.

Animal activists have protested these two swine industry management practices, which has resulted in some countries creating laws prohibiting tail docking. There is limited information available on how tail docking and teeth clipping affect pig performance and well-being during the nursery and growing periods.

Several swine researchers from China, along with A.P. Schinckel at Purdue University, conducted an experiment to determine the effects of tail docking and teeth clipping on the growth and behavior of piglets to help decide whether these management practices are necessary.

The experiment was conducted in China between July and December. A total of 126 piglets (50% females and 50% males) from Large White X Landrace sows (second and third parity) and Duroc sires from 21 litters (six pigs per litter) weighing more than 1.0 kg from 21 litters were randomly assigned to two treatments.

Pigs on treatment 1 experienced no tail docking or teeth clipping, but the handler massaged their teeth and tails. Pigs on treatment 2 had their tails docked and teeth clipped at three days of age.

Pigs were weaned at 21 days of age and moved to four 3.5 x 5.5 m nursery pens according to gender and treatment. At 70 days of age, the pigs were moved to four 5.5 x 7.0 m pens until 160 days of age.

Each nursery and growing pen was equipped with a hanging iron chain. No straw was provided on the solid-floor pens. Controlled heating and ventilation were used to keep the room temperature at 17 degrees C during the nursery period and at 25 degrees C during the growing period.

The pigs were fed a three-phase feeding program that met or exceeded National Research Council nutrient recommendations. Each pen had nipple drinkers and self-feeders to allow for ad libitum access to feed and water.

Various criteria were measured throughout the experiment, including:

1. Vocalizations, which were measured during tail docking and teeth clipping procedures with a sound pressure level meter.

2. Behavior, which was recorded using a digital video recording system that recorded for six hours after processing and for the same time period on days 2, 3, 5, 10 and 15. The recording was continued for six to seven different days during the nursery and growing periods. At 160 days of age, the "Welfare Quality Method" was used to assess whether or not pigs developed a good human/pig relationship.

3. Wounds on the body and tail, which were assessed by inspecting the two sides of the body of the pig or tail at 70, 110 and 160 days of age.

4. Growth and immune measures. Pigs were weighed at birth and on days 10, 21, 70 and 160. Feed usage was also measured. Immunoglobulin G concentrations were determined at weaning.

5. Live ultrasound scanning measurements. Back fat and loin muscle depth were measured ultrasonically on all pigs at 160 days of age.

 

Results

The vocalization at processing is summarized in Table 1. These results indicate no significant difference in sound intensity level or call frequency.

Table 2 summarizes pig behavior during the suckling period for two days after processing. These results indicate that the only significant difference in these criteria measurements was that the processed pigs spent more time at rest and less time playing/fighting.

There was no difference in pig behavior between the treatments for days 5-15, suggesting that the effects of processing on behavior changes were temporary. This observation continued throughout the nursery and growing periods.

At 160 days of age, more than 90% of the pigs did not display a panic response to the observer during the relationship test, indicating a good human/pig relationship for both treatments.

The frequency of wounds on the body or tail was not significantly affected by teeth clipping and tail docking, regardless of a pig's age at observation.

Table 3 summarizes the live performance and carcass characteristics of the pigs.

The researchers provided the following interpretations of these results:

* The serum immunoglobulin G concentrations did not differ between treatments (not presented).

* Pigs on treatment 1 had greater average daily gain than pigs on treatment 2, which is a reflection of heavier pigs at days 21 and 160.

* Gain:feed did not differ between treatments.

* The carcass measurements were similar between treatments.

The management practices of clipping teeth and tail docking will continue unless other measures to improve environmental conditions are implemented to prevent these swine vices.

Previous studies have shown that the processed piglets produced more high-frequency calls than non-processed piglets, which those researchers concluded as being indicative of greater pain in piglets during processing.

These results also suggest that the non-processed pigs appeared to retain more natural behaviors of pigs (exploratory behaviors) than the processed pigs.

The results from this study showed that keeping teeth and tails intact does not create more injury to the pigs if they are given favorable environmental conditions.

Several previous studies suggested that minimal udder damage is associated with intact teeth, and it is plausible that teeth clipping, if not properly performed, may result in sharp new surfaces on the clipped teeth that could cause as much damage to the udder as intact teeth.

 

The Bottom Line

The results of this study showed that tail docking and teeth clipping caused pain and distress in newborn pigs, as measured by vocalization and behavior. However, no effects between treatments were found on performance, wounds, postweaning behavior or carcass composition. In China, there may be no advantage to teeth clipping and tail docking.

 

Reference

J. Anim. Sci. Vol. 91. No. 10.

 

1. Vocalization at processing

 

-Treatment-

Criteria

1

2

Number of piglets

63

63

Sound intensity, decibels

95.0

97.5

Call rate, calls per second

0.62

1.06

Call frequency, hertz

2,877

2,825

 

2. Pig behavior during sucking period for two days after processing, % of observations

 

-Treatment-

Criteria

1

2

Number of piglets

63

62

Suckling

20.8

19.5

Standing

37.4

38.9

Lying alone

4.2

9.2

Huddling

26.2

22.8

Playing/fighting

7.1

4.0

Sitting

3.4

4.2

Other

0.9

1.4

 

100.0

100.0

 

3. Live performance and carcass characteristics

 

-Treatment-

Criteria

1

2

Weight, kg

Birth

1.5

1.5

Day 21 (weaning)

6.2

5.8

Day 160

96.4

93.8

Average daily gain, g/day

Days 0-21

223.7

204.8

Days 21-160

649.0

633.2

Days 0-160

592.6

577.0

Gain:feed

Days 21-160

0.46

0.44

Back fat depth, mm

At 3rd-4th rib

14.0

13.0

At 3rd-4th lumbar

14.9

14.4

Loin muscle depth, cm

58.5

58.6

 

Volume:85 Issue:48

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