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Farm animals
Tail biting in calves
  1. Michael Millar1 and
  2. Phil Kenward2
  1. 1Farm Animal Pathology Service, School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Langford BS40 5DU e-mail: vetschool-pathservices@bristol.ac.uk
  2. 2Farm Vets South West, Unit 8, Sedgemoor Auction Centre, North Petherton, Somerset TA6 6DF

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TAIL biting is relatively common in pigs but is rare in cattle. There are three reports in the literature (Sigsgaard and Hansen 1979, Meindertsma 1986, van der Mei 1986) with phosphorous deficiency and associated pica thought the likely cause in one of these (Sigsgaard and Hansen 1979). Tail trauma, on the other hand, can be common in fattening cattle, particularly those kept on slatted floors (Drolia and others 1991).

We wish to report an outbreak of tail biting in a group of 120 Belgian blue cross Holstein-Friesian cattle, aged about six to nine months. The group was part of 170 similarly aged stock sourced from one dairy farm as preweaned calves at two to three weeks old. Another group of 50 were kept on a separate unit two kilometres from the home farm and developed milder signs. There were 170 older fattening cattle kept on the same unit that were not affected. Calves from the same source dairy farm that were either kept on farm or sold elsewhere did not develop the same problem.

The group of 120 calves were kept in four straw-bedded pens with nose-to-nose contact in a purpose-built shed. The stocking rate was not high (Fig 1).

FIG 1:

Belgian blue cross calves bedded on straw

Damaged tail tips in one pen of calves were initially noticed on …

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