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The Occurrence of Tail Tip Alterations in Fattening Bulls Kept Under Different Husbandry Conditions

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Pathological alterations of the tail tip are a severe problem for fattening cattle husbandry with respect to animal welfare and economic losses. We compared the frequencies of tail tip lesions and less severe skin damage in bulls on farms with slatted-floor pens (slat, n = 10), slatted floor pens with prophylactic tail docking (slat/dock, n = 9), and deep bedding pens (straw, n = 10). In addition, the subjects' weight, their space allotment and the season of the year were determined to test whether they were related to the frequency of tail tip lesions and skin damage. Results are based on 8782 tail inspections in 764 pens. The frequency of the more severe tail tip lesions was highest in slat farms, less high in slat/dock farms, and lowest in straw farms. However, the incidence of the less severe skin damage was highest in slat farms, less high in straw farms, and lowest in slat/dock farms. The frequency of tail tip lesions increased with the weight of bulls in slat and slat/dock farms, but not in straw farms. In addition, in slat and slat/dock farms the incidence of tail tip lesions increased with a decreasing space allotment. The frequency of skin damage increased with increasing weight of bulls in each housing condition. The effect of weight on the number of tail tip lesions and skin damage was stronger in autumn, ie the period following the warm season, compared to spring. Our results suggest that a soft floor and an enlarged space allotment are the most suitable means of preventing tail tip lesions in fattening bulls. Prophylactic tail docking can reduce the occurrence of tail tip lesions only to a lesser degree and may impair the animals' welfare.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2001

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