Piglets are born with fully erupted ‘needle teeth’ which are used in competition for access to teats. Producers often clip these teeth to the gum line soon after birth to avoid any resulting facial lacerations, but this clipping can itself lead to injury or infection. Two experiments investigated the effects on facial injury and piglet performance of the potentially less damaging practice of ‘partial clipping’ whereby only the distal third of the tooth is removed. In Experiment 1, teeth were (1) partially clipped, (2) fully clipped to the gum line, or (3) left intact. All piglets of a litter received one treatment on one side of the mouth and a different treatment on the other side, with the three treatments balanced over the two sides in different litters. Facial lesions, scored separately for the two sides of the face at 3, 7, and 14 days, were negligible on the side facing either partially clipped or fully clipped teeth, but lesions on the side facing intact teeth were significantly greater (P < 0.02). In Experiment 2, some piglets in each of 22 litters had their teeth partially clipped, fully clipped, or left intact. In the first week after birth, piglets with fully clipped teeth gained the least (132 ± 6 g/day), those with partially clipped teeth were intermediate (144 ± 7), and those with intact teeth gained the most (154 ± 7; P < 0.02). There was no significant effect of treatment on later weight gain, the number of piglet deaths, or piglet suckling position (anterior to posterior). Thus, teeth that were partially clipped appeared to have a slight effect in competition among litter-mates, but caused little injury to other piglets.
FINAL EDITED VERSION OF MATERIAL. NOT FORMATTED FOR PUBLICATION.