DENMARK - When pigs have their tails docked neuroanatomical changes occur at the nerve endings, shows a study by researchers at Aarhus University, in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen.
In conventional pig production most of the piglets will have their tails docked a few days after birth to try to avoid problems with tail biting later in life. A gas-operated tail docker is typically used for this purpose.
The study has shown that when pig tails are docked, neuromas may develop.
Neuromas are thickened nerve endings that are created where the nerve is cut and these changes may affect the sensitivity of the tails to pain.
The scientists studied the impact of tail docking and the length removed on the tail length at slaughter, and on the formation of neuromas in the remaining stump at slaughter.
The experiment was conducted at the Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University, and included four treatments involving pigs with intact tails, and pigs with their tails docked with 75, 50 or 25 per cent of tail remaining.
In the study, pigs were slaughtered at about 22 weeks of age, with a total of 65 tails were studied for the presence of neuromas after slaughter.
The different docking lengths led to obvious differences in tail lengths at the time of slaughter.
The development of neuromas in the healed tail endings was the case for both short and long tail stumps. Whether these neuromas lead to changes in the animals' sensitivity to pain requires further investigation.
You can view the full report and author list by clicking here.
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