The practice of docking pigs’ tails has met with public criticism for a long time. The pig farming industry itself would also prefer to switch to intervention-free husbandry sooner rather than later.
Ending the process of tail docking, however, is easier said than done: there is a considerable risk of tail biting, resulting in significant problems in pig welfare as well as substantial economic damage. For this reason a process has been set up with the aim of putting an end to tail docking in a controlled and responsible manner.
Krulstaart working group
The Krulstaart working group was set up in October 2012 to gain insight into the factors that play a role in tail biting and to find alternatives to tail docking. The working group comprises representatives from various interested parties within the pork industry: LTO, NVV, the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals (Dierenbescherming), veterinary surgeons, breeders, slaughterhouses, the animal feed industry and government bodies. Wageningen UR is coordinating the process. The working group is looking for solutions, with the long-term aim of keeping animals without the need for interventions to limit the damage.
Dalfsen declarationTail biting is a complex problem in which various factors play a role, such as climate, feed, breeding, health, stall enrichment and design. The available knowledge was looked at from all disciplines. This resulted in the Dalfsen declaration that was presented in June 2013 in the form of an action plan. The final report 'Keeping pigs with a tail – towards preventing and combating tail biting' was also published.
LTO, NVV, other parties in the chain and the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals and EZ have together signed the Dalfsen declaration, which featured a road map to tackling the problem of tail biting. This road map begins with a demonstration project at VIC Sterksel, the creation of a safety net so that a tail biting outbreak can be stopped as quickly as possible and setting up networks to find practical solutions to the problem.
Study at VIC Sterksel
The demonstration project at VIC Sterksel has now started. Once every 6 weeks the tails of piglets from a number of litters are left intact and all available knowledge within the current system is used to prevent tail biting and to intervene in the appropriate manner when tail biting does occur.The study was set up in the existing stall design, without significant modifications, to ensure correspondence with current practices as much as possible. The available knowledge is applied within this framework.
The objective is to gain greater insight into what the possible risks are, when there is a greater likelihood of tail biting outbreaks (e.g. with a change in the weather), and to learn how these may be prevented. We aim to develop instruments and recommendations that will enable us to give practical advice in the future.
As part of the study an action plan is also being developed for when tail biting does occur so that it can be stopped as quickly and as effectively as possible. The starting point is to develop practical strategies for moving step-by-step towards an intervention-free pig farming industry.