Scientists from eight countries are starting a research project on how to prevent one of the major behavioural problems on commercial pig farms: tail biting. The aim of the collaboration is to yield new knowledge which will help to remove the need for tail docking, the currently widespread preventive practice of cutting off part of the tails of young piglets..
The FareWellDock project is a three-year research project starting this autumn in eight countries: the UK, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the USA. The overall aim is to supply necessary information for quantitative risk assessment of tail biting, and to stimulate the development towards a non-docking situation in the EU.
One group will delve into developing improved measures to prevent tail biting. An essential part is research into reasons for tail-biting outbreaks: which factors in the daily life on farms actually trigger this unnatural behaviour? This is work package 3 of the project. The group in work package 2 will investigate what quantity of straw, or other chewing and rooting materials, would be sufficient to satisfy the pigs’ need to explore and therefore reduce tail biting risk, and how to improve the feasibility of using straw on farms with different manure systems. The third group of scientists (work package 1) will focus on finding out what actually happens to the piglets that are tail-docked: how much pain piglets feel during docking, whether this results in longer-term pain and how this compares to the pain which is experienced by pigs which are tail bitten should an outbreak occur.
The project is led by Professor Anna Valros of the University of Helsinki in Finland. The other research institutes participating in the project are Scotland’s Rural College and Newcastle University in the UK, INRA in France, Aarhus University in Denmark, Wageningen UR Livestock Research in the Netherlands, SLU in Sweden, the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science and USDA-ARS in USA. The project is part of the European Animal Health and Welfare ERA-net initiative (ANIHWA), which aims at increasing cooperation of national research programmes on the health and welfare of farm animals.
November 2013/ FareWellDock.