Livestock farmers are no longer permitted to cut their pigs’ tails needlessly. This action by the federal states is in response to the EU’s call to ban non-curative interventions.
The action plan to dispense with docking throughout Germany came into effect on 1 July 2019. The action plan adopted last year by agriculture ministers of the various federal states provides for two options for pig farms.
On the one hand, livestock farmers may keep a control group consisting of undocked animals. In the case of injuries, they are required to implement appropriate measures to improve the situation. If this control group is successful, the number of undocked pigs will be increased incrementally until docking is dispensed with altogether.
On the other hand, livestock farmers that do not currently keep a control group and persist in docking their entire herd must in future provide evidence supporting the fact that keeping undocked animals is unfeasible at that point in time. In addition, an individual risk analysis with regard to tail biting must be submitted every year. This will permit livestock farmers to keep docked animals for a while longer. However, it is clear that this cannot persist in the long term.
The preventive removal of pigs’ tails is politically and socially undesirable in the long term. Public perception of this practice is that it is purely profit driven and puts agriculture and the meat industry in a bad light. Tail biting is actually one of the greatest challenges in pig production; and it will not go away on its own. It poses a serious risk to the animals’ health, resulting in injury, necrosis and rejection, and significantly affects their well-being.
So what can breeders and farmers do? This is where feed additives come into play: they can help reduce stress and combat stress symptoms such as tail biting. This is beneficial to both animals and humans.
Positive experimental results for a hop-based feed additive that helps enable keeping undocked pigs without a loss in performance are available here.