Tail docking

Why is it measured?

Tail biting is an abnormal behaviour which indicates a reduced opportunity to perform foraging and exploratory behaviour and can also occur when pigs are frustrated. Tail biting is a serious welfare concern as it is painful for the receiver and can lead to internal abscesses and infection. Tail biting may also be stressful for the group, indicating frustration and reduced welfare in the biting pig. Condemnations resulting from tail biting can result in significant financial losses.

In order to reduce the risk of tail biting, around 80% per cent of pigs in the UK are tail docked. However, tail docking itself poses a welfare concern, resulting in short-term pain from the procedure and possible longer term pain from neuroma formation. Routine tail docking is prohibited by EU legislation and should be performed only where there is evidence of tail biting damage and measures have been taken to prevent tail biting through other means such as providing suitable and sufficient environmental enrichment and space. Tail docking is prohibited by Soil Association standards and may only be carried out in exceptional circumstances & with written permission within the RSPCA’s standards. If permission is granted 6cm of tail must be left at the time of docking. The RSPCA welfare standards prohibit tail docking in free range pigs.

How to assess and score using the AssureWel measure

Tail docking (dry sows and finishing pigs)                                                                                            Pen measure
Observation: Look at the animals from the side or behind.

Record: Record if the animals are:
Undocked             =   None of the tail is docked;
Short docked       =    >50% of the tail is docked;
Long docked        =   <50% of the tail is docked.

Note if there are mixed tail lengths within the pen, i.e. (long docked / short docked and docked / undocked)