Tail Biting and other Vices


Causal agent

None specifically

Age group

The demonstration of vices can occur in all age groups

Clinical signs

Skin facial necrosis 2

Facial necrosis

Tail biting - grow/finishing pig, rarely in adults

Flank biting – grow/finish

Vulva biting  - adult females when loosed housed

Ear sucking/ear biting – in nursery pigs

Penile sucking – newly weaned pigs

Bar biting and other stereotypy’s




Tail biting

Flank biting

Vulva biting



Vice penile sucking 5

Ear biting

Ear sucking

Penile sucking


Stressed and deprived pigs

Check the following:

Check stocking density. Check tail length, in particular variability. Check feed particle size (target> 500 ΅m). Check salt (NaCl) concentration in feed. Check water supplies. Check for evidence of a draught at pig heights (draught air speed > 0.2 m/sec). Check air quality  (target  - NH3 < 20 ppm  H2S < 10 ppm and CO2 < 3000 ppm). Check humidity (target between 50 and 75%. Check light intensity.  Check water supplies.  Check feeder space availability. Check 24 hour temperature fluctuations.  Mixing pigs.  Moving pigs.  Facial necrosis is associated with lactation failure.

Note the iceberg effect of combinations of these faults




Find offending pig – this may be difficult

Look for the gaunt smaller middle order pig, often with chronic mild diarrhea

Remove affected pigs to a hospital pen

Treat with sprays/wound dressings

Consider euthanasia if pig severely affected, lame or has other abscesses


Increase salt (NaCl) concentration to 0.9% - ensure the water supply is excellent

Review environmental factors


in particular draughts – 90% association with tail biting

Gasses – in particular NH3, CO2, CO

Weather changes – high pressure

Inappropriate/variable temperatures

Check lying and defecation patterns of the pigs


Fighting over inadequate water

Urine concentrated in sows makes vulva biting more likely

Water trough placement in sows


Check for mycotoxins

Fighting over feed availability


Check stocking density – both under and overstocking

Inadequate sleeping area


Some genetics may be more aggressive in some environments

Provide distractions through toys – chains for example

Improve pig flow – remove under and over stocking

Check tail docking principles – pigs do not like variable pig tail lengths


Chains can provide great distraction for pigs


Tires should be avoided as they contain metal parts and may block parts of the pen

Facial necrosis

Enhance lactation output – three major areas to examine:

Overfeeding in gestation, poor water intake in lactation and too high a farrowing house room temperature.

Post-mortem findings

Injury to the skin.  Sequelae to vices include – pulmonary millary abscesses, vegetative endocarditis, bacteriaemia, spinal abscessation and single or multiple discrete abscesses throughout the body


Areas of Vice



Tail biten severe 3

Flank bite 2

Vice weaner-ear biting kr

Tail biting

Flank biting

Ear biting

Repro vulva biting

Skin Vice areas copy

Vulva biting

Vice penile sucking

Vice ear sucking

Skin facial necrosis 2

Penile or naval sucking

Ear sucking

Facial necrosis