About this Research Topic
Tail biting is a damaging behavior in pigs that causes both significant animal welfare problems and economic losses. It is hugely difficult to prevent and control in conventional pig farming systems; the causes are multifactorial, and in general, associated with the animals experiencing a level of stress which they are unable to cope with well. Risk factors include aspects of both the physical and social environment, as well as genetics. The most effective method of reducing the risk of tail biting is tail docking, which has become routine practice in many countries worldwide. However, docking does not address the underlying causes of biting behavior, and indeed does not entirely prevent it. Farmers are reluctant to abandon the practice, because of the perception of a high biting risk if they do, and even if their engagement in other prevention strategies for tail biting is high. This, along with the fact that there are strong moves to enforce the EU ban on routine docking, means that there is a growing body of research on other strategies to reduce the risk of tail biting in pigs.
Potential authors are invited to submit Original Research articles, state-of-the-art Reviews and Opinion pieces on strategies all along the pig production chain that aim to reduce the need to dock pigs’ tails as a biting prevention method. As there is no ‘one-size-fits all’ solution to the problem of tail biting, there is no single factor which warrants particular investigation, and as such we welcome submissions from a broad range of subjects. Traditionally most research on the topic of tail biting has focused on physical infrastructure and management, including provision of enrichment, during the growing and rearing period. However early life (pre- and post-natal) experiences can impact later responses to stress, so research on how this relates to tail biting is welcome. At the same time, methods of scoring pigs’ tails and of facilitating information sharing from the slaughterhouse could also play a significant role in reducing biting risk; provision of reliable feedback to producers enables them to benchmark their farm, and identify areas for improvement. Investigations on the effects of the “human factor” are also expected, from the perception and opinion of farmers on the feasibility of abandoning tail docking, to the quantification of ongoing efforts in that direction, and the economic impact of prevention of tail biting in undocked pigs. Studies which investigate strategies which ultimately are unsuccessful are also welcome.
Potential topics include, but are not limited to:
• Identification of, and methods of provision of appropriate environmental enrichment
• Use of precision livestock farming techniques to reduce the risk of and control tail biting
• Study of genetic and/or epigenetic influences on the risk of biting behavior
• Validation of risk assessment protocols, and scoring techniques
• Engagement with stakeholders along the pig production chain
Keywords: Tail biting, Tail docking, Stress, Slaughterhouse, Scoring methodology
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.