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FareWellDock: Ending tail docking and tail biting in the EU - Hazard characterization and exposure assessment of a major pig welfare problem - AW1029

Description
Tail biting is a major health and welfare hazard in the EU pig industry, and efficient tools to control the problem are lacking. Contrary to the aim of EU directive (2001/93/EC), tail docking is widely used in most countries. This proposal is part of a large co-ordinated project under the EU ANIHWA programme which aims to support quantitative risk assessment and a shift towards a non-docking policy and practice. Tail docking is painful, and should be avoided, but tail biting is undesirable as well. Tail docking decreases the tail biting prevalence but it does not solve the underlying welfare problems. A more detailed hazard characterization is needed of the relative harms associated with tail docking and tail biting, as is further exposure assessment of the risks of tail biting, especially in undocked pigs. The overall programme will provide this information and examine the efficiency of preventive measures to reduce the need for tail docking. It focuses on the three most important related welfare hazards, namely tail docking, inadequate enrichment and poor health, and includes studies on short- and long-term effects of tail docking and tail biting on pig welfare (WP1), tail biting and enrichment (WP2) and identification of individual and group characteristics predisposing pigs to tail biting which can aid management of undocked animals (WP3). In this way the programme aims to provide the scientific basis needed to reduce tail docking and tail biting, and thereby significantly improve pig welfare in the EU.

Within this framework, the specific work in this proposal will assess the harms associated with tail docking and tail biting by (i) characterising the time course of traumatic neuroma development caused by tail resection, (ii) assessing the short (acute trauma), medium (post trauma inflammation) and long term (traumatic neuroma formation) pain associated with tail docking in neonatal piglets, and (iii) assessing the effects of tail-damage in more mature pigs on neuroma formation and stump pain sensitivity. This will provide a basis for assessing the pain associated with being tail bitten in later life. Furthermore, it will seek to facilitate management of reduced docking on farms by (iv) investigating the potential for automated systems for early warning of tail biting outbreaks which could be used in practical conditions, especially in large herds.
Objective
The general aim of the co-ordinated programme is to carry out a detailed hazard characterization of the relative harms associated with tail docking and tail biting, to provide further knowledge on exposure assessment of the risks of tail biting, especially in undocked pigs, and to examine the efficiency of preventive measures to reduce the need for tail docking.

Within this programme, the specific objectives of the work in this proposal will be:

1. to assess the harms associated with tail docking and tail biting by:
(i) characterising the time course of traumatic neuroma development caused by tail resection,
(ii) assessing the short (acute trauma), medium (post trauma inflammation) and long term (traumatic neuroma formation) pain associated with tail docking in neonatal piglets,
(iii) assessing the effects of tail-damage in more mature pigs on neuroma formation and stump pain sensitivity.
Newcastle University will manage the experimental animals and be responsible for in vivo behavioural and physiological assessments of pain. SRUC will provide expertise in the design and implementation of these assessments (together with Aarhus University, Denmark) and be responsible for in vitro electrophysiological and molecular assessments of changes in pain signalling pathways.

2. to facilitate management of reduced docking on farms by
(iv) investigating the potential for automated systems for early warning of tail biting outbreaks which could be used in practical conditions, especially in large herds.
Newcastle University will be responsible for management on commercial farm data collection and Oxford University (as a subcontractor) will provide expertise in data analysis and interpretation.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2013

To: 2016

Cost: £919,659
Contractor / Funded Organisations
SAC Commercial Ltd, Newcastle University
Keywords
Animal Welfare              
Livestock Farming              
Pigs              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare