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Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry (ITT)

Research Project SchwIP

AG Schweine

Project Duration: 01.07.2015 - 31.12.2018

Tail biting intervention programme (SchwIP)

Tail biting is a frequent problem during pig rearing which significantly reduces animal welfare and productivity. It is a multifactorial problem, which means its occurrence is influenced by the combined effect of a large number of risk factors.

Therefore, there is no “standard solution” but every farm has to reduce risks on an individual basis. The Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry within Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut developed the “tail biting intervention programme” (SchwIP) to help with farm-individual risk assessment. SchwIP combines the advisory concept of animal health and welfare planning with a knowledge base software for farm-individual analysis and feedback of risks for tail biting in pigs. Farm planning means regular compilation of a farm-individual risk profile during a one-day assessment. The profile is based on data from an interview and direct observations in the barn, which are compiled into a report that outlines farm strengths and weaknesses using a software. The report then helps the farmer in deciding on aims and measures for his farm. The risk profile is updated and aims and measures are adapted during each consecutive visit, which contributes to long-term reduction of farm-individual risks for tail biting. 

As tail biting risk areas differ somewhat between younger and older pigs, SchwIP was, respectively is being, developed for fattening (rearing-finishing) pigs and weaner piglets separately.

© FLI Celle

SchwIP for weaner piglets (A-SchwIP)

In non-tail docked conventional pigs tail biting frequently occurs after weaning from the sow, i.e. in weaner piglets. Weaner piglets are affected by current (e.g. climate) as well as historical factors, especially weaning management. The aim of the A-SchwIP project is to develop and distribute a management tool for reducing tail biting risk in weaner piglets using the following work plan:

  • compile a list of tail biting risk factors in weaner piglets 
  • let experts assign relative impact values to each single factor 
  • integrate the reviewed and weighted list of risk factors into a software
  • train farm advisers and veterinarians in applying A-SchwIP (nationwide)
  • trained advisers and vets as well as FLI scientist Angelika Grümpel apply A-SchwIP on working farms (3 visits spaced 6 months apart, feed back data to FLI)
  • analyse data regarding frequency and influence of risk factors
  • revise software
  • publish results and software

The A-SchwIP project runs from July 2015 until June 2018.

„Current status: There are technical problems with the tool for collecting and feeding back data. Therefore, there are currently no trainings taking place. We will inform you here with any news regarding SchwIP.“

The software is supported by „Tönnies Forschung - Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Forschung über die Zukunft des Tierschutzes in der Nutztierhaltung mbH“.

The project is supported by funds of the “German Government's Special Purpose Fund held at Landwirtschaftliche Rentenbank".

SchwIP for fattening pigs (M-SchwIP)

Tail biting is also a frequent problem in fattening pigs. Therefore, SchwIP for fattening pigs (M-SchwIP) has been developed and tested in a project that took place from September 2011 to August 2014. You can find supplements for the following summary in the list of publications (Downloads, right side panel). The M-SchwIP software will be published soon. 

Summary of M-SchwIP methods and results

M-SchwIP is based on the UK management tool “tail biting HAT” (Taylor et al.). During an expert survey, risk factors from tail biting HAT were adapted to German pig husbandry conditions and weighted regarding their strength of impact. The resulting database forms the core of a spreadsheet file with macros for collecting and reporting data on farm. After a training by Astrid vom Brocke (FLI) 68 farm advisers and veterinarians as well as an FLI scientist (Dana Madey) applied M-SchwIP on a total of 188 farms throughout Germany twice within one year. 

95 % of farms implemented their self-selected measures partly or completely in between the two visits. Especially the provision of loose enrichment material was increased. Pigs in pens with loose enrichment material manipulated their pen mates significantly less than pigs in pens without loose enrichment. This agrees with a reduction of tail lesion prevalence from first to second visit. When comparing tail lesions at the abattoir during the course of one year (scoring of pictures from 43,402 pigs from 32 SchwIP farms und 36,632 pigs from 32 control farms) the prevalence of lesions in SchwIP pigs decreased during the first months from a slightly elevated level to the level of the control farms. Overall, 95 % of farms considered M-SchwIP to be a useful on-farm tool and 97 % of trained advisers and veterinarians thought they might use M-SchwIP as part of their routine work (anonymous questionnaire, 48 advisers / vets and 146 SchwIP farms).

Part of this research project was funded by „Tönnies Forschung - Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Forschung über die Zukunft des Tierschutzes in der Nutztierhaltung mbH“ and the State of Lower Saxony.

The authors are very grateful to the participating farm advisers and veterinarians as well as all participating farmers.

Project Manager

Dr. Sabine Dippel