NADIS Veterinary Report & Forecast - October 2009

UK - This is a monthly report from the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS), looking at the data collected from their UK farm inspections.
calendar icon 28 October 2009
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As part of the ongoing monitoring of conditions which adversely affect the health and welfare of pigs on the farm, NADIS reporting veterinary surgeons record the prevalence of what is usually termed ‘vice’ in growing pigs. More correctly this should perhaps be referred to as aberrant aggressive behaviour.

Graph 1 demonstrates a marked reduction in the levels recorded on farm with the overall prevalence since the spring of 2009 being below 0.6 per cent - approximately half of the levels in the previous 2 years.

In breaking down the types of damage seen, some form of damage was seen on 46 per cent farms but of these, 80 per cent were affected by tail biting with flank and ear biting equally represented in the remainder (Graph 2).

With different management systems, the prevalence of vice on slats was 2.5 times that on straw (0.5 v 0.2) and was far more common in batch systems and indoor derived pigs. The presence or absence of tail docking is not recorded so it is not possible to associate vice with this procedure (Graph 3).

Moreover the levels seen on sites specialised in growing pigs (nursery/finisher and finisher only sites) was noticeably higher than on breeder feeder farms (Graph 4).

Graph 5 indicates the regional differences in vice with E. Anglia reporting twice the level seen elsewhere. This is somewhat surprising given the predominance of straw based systems in E. Anglia (70 per cent of all recorded farms are straw based compared to a 50/50 split in NE England – Graph 6) suggesting that when vice does occur in E. Anglia the within-farm prevalence is higher than in the North-East.

The lowest prevalence of aberrant behaviour in growing pigs occurs in the smallest and largest sites (less than 1000 or more than 8000 pigs), whilst the most usual site sizes – 1000-8000 places – see nearly double the level of problems.(Graph 7).

Tail biting and other forms of cannibalistic behaviour in growing pigs are a serious problem accounting for welfare compromise and economic loss. The presence of these conditions across all types, sizes of farms and regions, shows how complex the problem is with no single answer – such as straw provision – proving effective at preventing damage.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.
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