<%@LANGUAGE="JavaScript1.3"%> Swine Production Management - Farrowing- Tail Docking

Tail Docking

  • Piglet tails are docked to help control tail biting in growing and finishing pigs. Unfortunately currently there are no measures which will prevent tail biting. Tail biting is unpredictable and therefore on farms where tail biting occurs, tail docking is advised. Note tail docking should not be considered routine. Always try to prevent tail biting thorough management.

  • Tail biting is a serious problem which often results from an accumulation of problems. The pigs become more aggressive and start biting and sucking on each other. There is little correlation with building design but it is essential to avoid draughts

  1. The tail scissors or forceps must not be those used for teeth clipping

  2. The tail scissors must be cleaned between litters by wiping the blades with cotton wool soaked in surgical spirit

  3. All blood must be removed from the scissors immediately by wiping with cotton wool

  4. If fecal material contaminates the blades, this must be cleaned off immediately, using disinfectant and surgical spirit

  5. After use, the scissors must be cleaned in hot soapy water using a tooth brush to clean the blades

  6. Do not sterilize the scissors by boiling as this will blunt the blades

  7. The scissors should then be placed in surgical spirit or alcohol for 10 minutes

  8. Allow to air dry

  9. Store the scissors in a clean plastic bag

  10. Gas de-tailers may be preferred over scissors

  11. The operation must only performed on piglets less than 7 days old, unless carried out by a veterinary surgeon

  12. The use of rubber rings are illegal

  1. Tails should be docked at least 6 hours after birth but before 2 days. Allow an extra day for weak or sickly piglets.

  2. Using tail cutting pliers or artery forceps, pull the skin of the tail towards the rump, and cut leaving at least 25 mm (1 inch) at the base of the tail. In this way, when the skin is released it tends to cover the stump. If the skin of the tail is pulled downwards towards the thin end, too little skin is left to cover the stump and bone is exposed.

  3. Cut the tail with a length of 2/3rd length of the vulva in a female piglet. Some schemes require the tail to be longer. It is essential however, to cut all the tails the same length. Variable tail length contributes to tail biting

  4. Place the cauterizing pliers as far up the tail as possible and cut.

  5. Return piglets to the sow as soon as possible.

Position of cut

Handling the piglet with the cauterizing plier

Position of the cauterizing pliers

The tail after tail docking. The gentian violet spray is advisory


Other considerations:
  • Handling the piglets with confidence tends to reduce both stock person and animal stress.

  • It is important to confine the pigs being treated in as warm, dry and clean an area as possible.

  • Good farrowing pen hygiene and an effective cleansing program will reduce the incidence of infection of wounds.

  • Always wash your hands before tail docking.

  • The playing of a radio can help to settle the sows and piglets

  • If outdoors, consider your safety ? work in pairs. Sows with piglets are potentially very dangerous.

  • Problems can occur if tail docking carried out with dirty equipment

Infected tail stumps and joint ill are classic problems associated with poor technique.

Tail docking equipment management