Effects of different housing systems during suckling and rearing period on skin and tail lesions, tail losses and performance of growing and finishing pigs
Feasible alternatives to stressful weaning and tail-docking are needed to inhibit tail biting. Therefore, we investigated the effects of housing systems for 1106 pigs that were weaned from: (1) conventional farrowing crates (FC), (2) free-farrowing pens (FF), or (3) group housing of lactating sows (GH) into (1) conventional rearing pens (Conv) or (2) piglets remained in their farrowing pens for rearing (Reaf). Tails were docked or left undocked batchwise. All pigs were regrouped for the fattening period. Pigs were scored for skin lesions, tail lesions and losses. After weaning, Conv-GH pigs had significantly less skin lesions than Conv-FC and Conv-FF pigs. After regrouping for fattening, Reaf-GH pigs had significantly less skin lesions than Conv pigs, Reaf-FC and Reaf-FF. The frequency of tail lesions of undocked Conv pigs peaked in week 4 (66.8%). Two weeks later, Reaf undocked pigs reached their maximum (36.2%). At the end of fattening, 99.3% of undocked Conv pigs and 43.1% of undocked Reaf pigs lost parts of their tail. In conclusion, the co-mingling of piglets during suckling reduced the incidence of skin lesions. Rearing in the farrowing pen significantly reduced the incidence of tail lesions and losses for undocked pigs. No housing system negatively affected the performance.