Data from Electronic Feeders on Visit Frequency and Feed Consumption Indicate Tail-biting Outbreaks

26 April 2013, at 12:00am

Feeding behaviour predicted tail-biting in pens of growing pigs up to nine weeks before the biting started and also which individuals would be involved in this novel Swedish study. The work also confirms that tail-bitten pigs eat less feed.

In Journal of Animal Science, Anna Wallenbeck and L.J. Keeling of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala explain that the long-term aim with this study was to identify predictors or early indicators of tail biting outbreaks, using registrations from electronic feeders.

This study is based on information about daily frequency of feeder visits (DFV) and daily feed consumption (DFC) recorded in electronic feeders from 460 non-castrated boars in tail biting pens (TB pens, n=21) and matched control pens (C pens, n=21) from 10 weeks before to 10 weeks after the first injured tail in the pen.

The results showed lower average DFV among pigs in TB pens than pigs in C pens six to nine weeks before the start of the tail-biting outbreak - first treatment for tail damage due to tail biting; P<0.1; d.f.=487 - but a greater DFV for tail-biting victims two to five weeks before the start of the tail biting outbreak compared both to other pigs in the TB pen and to pigs in the C pen (P<0.1; d.f.=6500).

Tail-biting victims had lower DFC during and after the tail-biting outbreak - weeks 0 to 2 after the tail biting outbreak (P<0.1; d.f.=6500)].

In conclusion, information from electronic feeders can be used for surveillance of tail-biting outbreaks in pigs. Wallenbeck and Keeling report that, due to common casual factors, low feeding frequencies observed on the group level can predict future tail-biting in the pen as early as nine weeks before the first tail injuries. Moreover, elevated feeding frequencies by individual pigs in potential tail-biting pens may predict which pigs will be become the victims in the tail-biting outbreak.

The Uppsala-based researchers add that the results further support previous findings that pigs with tail injuries due to tail-biting consume lower amounts of feed.


Wallenbeck A. and L.J. Keeling. 2013. Using data from electronic feeders on visit frequency and feed consumption to indicate tail biting outbreaks in commercial pig production. J. Anim. Sci. Published online before print March 11, 2013, doi: 10.2527/jas.2012-5848

Further Reading

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April 2013