Main research question/goal
One of the alternatives for unanesthetized castration of male piglets is to rear entire male pigs. ILVO recently discovered that some commercial farms produce entire males with (almost) no boar taint while other farms have some entire males whose meat does have boar taint. ILVO, together with Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, explore to what extent genetic selection could resolve the problem of boar taint. This research poses the following questions: (1) is the growth performance acceptable? (2) do unwanted side effects occur in the social behaviour and the associated welfare of the pigs? and (3) Do other aspects like meat and carcass quality still score well enough? ILVO‘s Animal Sciences Unit compares pigs with a genetic marker for boar taint and pigs without this marker. Research approach
In the first part, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven searches for a molecular genetic marker which is associated with boar taint using a literature review and an association study in pure breeds and the commonly-used crosses in Flanders. In a selection experiment, ILVO then compares boars and gilts with a favourable genotype for the marker with boars and gilts with a negative genotype. This experiment is used to validate the marker (the first group should have less boar taint). Subsequently, ILVO compares performance characteristics and carcass and meat quality of the two groups. Rearing entire males may require adapted management because entire males show more aggressive and sexual behaviour than barrows and gilts. The question arises whether the boars' behaviour will change under selection against boar taint.Relevance/Valorisation
Pig farmers are facing intense social pressure to stop unanesthetized surgical castration of male piglets. Alternatives include castration with anesthesia and immunocastration, but researchers are looking for a long-term, sustainable alternative method. The general public accepts genetic selection as a sustainable alternative to castration. The advantages of genetic selection are numerous and include labour reduction for the pig farmer; better growth performance, which implies a higher economic return; and fewer carcasses with boar taint at the meat processing plant. The butcher and the consumer also know that the pig meat comes from uncastrated boars. The results of the project will be communicated via scientific publications, lectures and popularized publications. Positive results are likely to be implemented immediately in the pig sector.
IWT - Instituut voor de aanmoediging door wetenschap en technologie in Vlaanderen
KULeuven - Dept. Biosystemen