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The effect of pen environment on pen-mate directed behaviour prior to feeding in finisher pigs with intact tails

Klaaborg, J., Kristensen, A.R., Brandt, P.
Livestock science 2019 v.219 pp. 35-39
aggression, amputation, animal pens, consumer demand, ears, feeding behavior, hemorrhage, laws and regulations, straw, swine, swine production, tail, tail biting, tail docking
Tail biting is one of the largest problems in intensive pig production among finishers. Currently, tail docking is performed to minimize tail biting, such as bleeding, sores, infection and amputation, however, due to legislation and consumer demand, there is a need for finding other alternatives. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of pen environment on the prevalence of pen-mate directed behaviour prior to feeding in finishers with intact tails. Pigs were assigned to one of two pens. Compared to PEN1, PEN2 housed fewer pigs, had a higher space allowance per pig and a larger area of solid floor than PEN1, whereas the space per pig at the feeding trough was the same. Straw was provided in a straw rack in PEN1 and on the floor in PEN2. Recorded behaviour (tail directed, ear directed, aggression, feeding, belly nosing and other nosing behaviour) was observed continuously 30 min prior to the last feeding of the day by the use of video recordings in three focal pigs in a total of 30 pens. The hypothesis was that PEN2 would generate a lower prevalence of pen-mate directed behaviour compared to PEN1. However, there was a similar prevalence of tail directed, ear directed and other nosing behaviour between pens and a tendency of a higher prevalence in counts of aggression and belly nosing in PEN2, thus rejecting the hypothesis. Furthermore, there was a difference in feeding behaviour with a higher prevalence in PEN1 (P ≤ 0.01).