Interactive rooting towers and behavioural observations as strategies to reduce tail biting on conventional pig fattening farms
Eight pens (25 pigs/pen; n = 200) provided with an interactive straw-filled rooting tower (experimental group) and five pens (25 pigs/pen; n = 125) with a stationary (fixed) tower without straw (control group) were compared within three fattening periods on a conventional farm with fully slatted flooring. The effectiveness of the tower to trigger favourable behaviour in feeding and outside feeding periods was assessed. The incidence of deep tail injuries was lower in the experimental group (experimental group: Odds Ratio 0.3, p < 0.001) and was influenced by the batch (Odds Ratio: 2.38, p < 0.001) but not by pen and sex. In spring, most pens were excluded due to severe tail biting. Tail injury scores were more severe in the control group in weeks 5, 6 and 7 compared to the experimental group (p = 0.002, p < 0.001, p < 0.001, respectively). Tower manipulation was more frequent during feeding compared to outside feeding time (p = 0.002). More head than tail manipulation occurred in the experimental group (p = 0.03). The interactive tower as the only measure was not appropriate to reduce tail biting sufficiently in pigs with intact tails on a conventional fattening farm. Of high priority to prevent tail biting outbreaks was the early detection of biting pigs.