Pigs (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Pigs (PB7950)

Section 1 - Management


Tail Docking

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003 No. 299), Schedule 6, Part II, paragraphs 21 and 23 (1) state that:
  1. (1) If docking of tails is carried out after the seventh day of life it shall only be performed under anaesthetic and additional prolonged analgesia by a veterinary surgeon.
  1. (1) If docking of tails is carried out after the seventh day of life it shall only be performed under anaesthetic and additional prolonged analgesia by a veterinary surgeon.
83. Tail biting and other vices, such as ear and flank biting, are associated with some form of stress. They can be triggered by a wide range or combination of factors, including: overstocking, feed deficiencies, incorrect temperature levels, fluctuating temperature levels, inadequate ventilation, draughts, high levels of dust and noxious gases (i.e. ammonia) and lack of environmental enrichment. Sometimes changes in external weather conditions can also trigger an outbreak.
84. If tail biting does occur, it can spread quickly through the pen and the degree of injury increases very quickly. You should ensure that affected pigs are removed to a hospital pen and treated without delay. If possible, you should try to identify the instigator and remove the animal to a separate pen.
85. Routine tail docking is not permitted. Tail docking should only be used as a last resort, after improvements to the pigs environment and management have proved ineffectual. Where it is necessary to tail dock, it must be carried out in accordance with the law by a competent, trained operator before the seventh day of life, or by a veterinary surgeon. All equipment used must be cleaned and disinfected between pigs.
86. As part of your herd health and welfare plan (see paragraphs 8 and 22), you should have a strategy for dealing with outbreaks of vice such as tail biting. Although much has been learnt from research and practical on-farm experience, it is not possible to produce a definitive solution suitable for all cases. A thorough assessment and planned approach is therefore recommended to identify the particular cause of an outbreak on the unit and to find the appropriate solution to the problem.
  • Quantify the problem

    - note the position of pens and numbers of pigs affected, check records of previous incidents.
  • List possible causes

    - such as interruption or inadequate supply of feed or water, lack of environmental enrichment, inadequate ventilation, draughts, incorrect temperature levels, overstocking, competition at feeding, excessive light levels, elevated dust/noxious gas levels. Different causes may be found in different pens on the same unit.
  • Modify health and welfare plan

    - having identified areas for improvement, in consultation with the herds veterinary surgeon and other technical advisers, modify your health and welfare plan to implement the necessary changes with a view to preventing future outbreaks of tail biting.
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