An observational study on tail biting in commercial grower-finisher barns

Spyridon K. Kritas, Robert B. Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objectives: To describe the prevalence of bitten tails and determine risk factors at pig and pen level in barns with a history of high incidence of tail biting. Methods: In two finishing barns, prevalence and severity of tail-biting lesions in docked pigs and association of bitten tails with gender were determined in a cross-sectional study. The associations with space allowance per pig, animal density, and barrow:gilt ratio per pen were examined. A matched case-control study determined the association between length of tail, severity of lesions on bitten tails, and chest girth (a surrogate measure of body weight). Results: In a total of 1895 pigs (58% barrows, 42% gilts), the prevalence of bitten tails was 16.3% (barrows 21%; gilts 9.4%). The odds of being a bitten barrow was 2.6 times higher than being a bitten gilt (P < .001). Approximately 60% of affected pigs of both genders had severe lesions. Neither prevalence nor severity of lesions was associated with space allowance, animal density, or barrow:gilt ratio within pen. The prevalence of bitten barrows was positively correlated with the percentage of gilts in the pen (r = 0.56, P = .001). Severely bitten pigs had significantly smaller chest girth than less affected pigs. No association of the severity of lesions with length of the tail was observed. Implications: Under the conditions of this study, the incidence of tail-biting lesions in barrows was more than twice that in gilts. Severely bitten pigs were smaller than pen mates. Sorting by gender may help reduce tail biting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-22
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Swine Health and Production
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Prevention
  • Swine
  • Tail biting


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