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Intact tails: a measure of pig welfare


Tail biting is an important overall indicator of pig welfare: the more intact tails, the better the on-farmwelfare can be assumed to be. Tail biting also increases the need for medications and decreases piggrowth and carcass quality. Finland is one of the few countries where tail docking is totally banned.This provides an exceptional opportunity to use intact tails as an animal-based welfare indicator. It ispossible to reliably assess large numbers of pig tails at the slaughterhouse, however, this does not giveinformation about at which growing stage tails were injured. Assessing tail lesions on-farm, on theother hand, is very challenging. There is plenty of knowledge on prevalence of and risk factors for tailbiting in finishing pigs, while the information regarding weaning pigs is scarce. This project focuseson the weaning stage, to reduce tail biting throughout the growing period. The project defines anintact enough tail in pigs, when moved to finisher farms, and develops an automatic system based onmachine vision for assessing tail lesions and pig weight at this stage. The project identifies risky ageperiods and risk factors for tail biting in the weaner unit. An economic analysis and producerinterviews will help identify efficient motivators for reducing tail biting in weaner pigs. The project isrealized as a cooperation between the University of Helsinki, the National Resources Institute Finlandand three big slaughterhouses (HKScan Finland Oy, Atria Oyj ja Snellman Lihajalostus Oy). Resultswill be brought into practice directly during the project, through activities of the slaughterhouses, andby communicating with decision-makers. Project seminars, workshops and electronic material willensure efficient dissemination.