Tail Docking of Piglets 1: Stress Response of Piglets to Tail Docking
AuthorMorrison, R; Hemsworth, P
University of Melbourne Author/sHemsworth, Paul
AffiliationVeterinary Clinical Sciences
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsMorrison, R. & Hemsworth, P. (2020). Tail Docking of Piglets 1: Stress Response of Piglets to Tail Docking. ANIMALS, 10 (9), https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091701.
Access StatusOpen Access
Open Access at PMChttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7552632
This experiment assessed the efficacy of the cauterisation procedure with or without pain relief (injectable meloxicam) in mitigating the acute stress response to tail docking. Male piglets (n = 432) were allocated to the following treatments at 2-d post-farrowing: (1) no handling, (2) sham handling, (3) tail docked using clippers, (4) tail docked using a cauteriser, (5) meloxicam + clipper, and (6) meloxicam + cauteriser. Meloxicam treatments used Metacam® at 5 mg/mL injected i.m. 1 h prior to tail docking. Blood samples were collected at 15 and 30 min post-treatment and analysed for total plasma cortisol. Behaviours indicative of pain such as escape attempts, vocalisations and standing with head lowered were measured. The duration of vocalisations and frequency of escape attempts during treatment were greater in all tail docking treatments compared to the sham treatment. Piglets in the clipper treatment had higher (p < 0.05) cortisol concentrations at 30 min but not 15 min after treatment and stood for longer (p < 0.001) with head lowered in the first 60 min after treatment than those in the cauterisation treatment. Meloxicam reduced (p < 0.05) both the cortisol response at 30 min after tail docking with the clipper as well as the behavioural response in the first 60 min after tail docking with the clipper. In comparison to the sham treatment, cortisol concentrations at 15 min were higher in the two tail docking treatments whereas the tail docking treatments with meloxicam were similar to the sham handling treatment. In comparison to the sham handling treatment, cortisol concentrations at 30 min post-docking were higher (p < 0.05) only in the clipper treatment. While cauterisation appears to be less aversive than the clipper procedure, the administration of meloxicam did not mitigate the behavioural response during tail docking using either procedure, but reduced standing with head lowered in the first hour after docking for both methods. The commercial viability of administration of meloxicam requires consideration before it is recommended for use compared to cauterisation alone, as it requires additional handling of piglets and costs.
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