On farm comparison of different alternatives for surgical castration of male piglets

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    How do pig farmers evaluate four alternatives for surgical castration without anaesthesia? This research aimed at evaluating the practicability of each of the alternatives on farm level. Castration of piglets is a painful procedure, but still performed because it effectively eliminates boar taint. This off-odour can be present in the meat of entire male pigs. Retailers want to avoid negative consumer reactions to this odour. Which is why they refrain from selling meat from entire male pigs. When evaluating alternatives for surgical castration, not only practicability and economical feasability, but also the effect on animal welfare, final meat quality and the prevalence of boar taint is important. Besides these factors, certain limiting conditions as legislation, market acceptance and risk for boar taint should be taken into account for some of these alternatives.

    Research approach
    Five treatments were evaluated for each of the stipulated criteria on 20 farms and with 120 male animals per treatment group, reared in single sex groups. Pain due to castration can be reduced or eliminated by the use of anaesthesia or analgesia or by banning castration. Therefore, treatments consisted of castration without anaesthesia as a control treatment, castration with analgesia (Metacam® injection 10 to 15 minutes before castration), surgical castration with general anaesthesia (inhalation of 100% CO2 (not yet legally accepted), vaccination against boar taint (two injection with Improvac®) and production of entire male pigs.

    This research has revealed several bottlenecks, opportunities and challenges. If the necessary support is provided (mainly when switching to a new alternative), all alternatives seem to be practically feasible on farm level. However, the market potential of entire male pigs and immunocastrates is still limited. The lack of an objective, online boar taint detection method is the main limiting factor to shift towards the production of entire male pigs. Observations of behaviour at the end of the fattening period confirmed earlier findings about increased sexual and aggressive behaviour of entire male pigs compared to barrows, but also indicated that skin lesions and leg problems due to this behaviour are rather light than severe. Three percent of the entire male pigs were identified as having strong boar taint. Percentages varied between farms from 0 up to 14 % for entire male pigs, while boar taint was absent in meat from barrows and immunocastrates.

    Funding provider(s)
    Belpork vzw
    STEDULA - Steunpunt duurzame Landbouw
    Vlaamse Overheid - VLAM Vlaams Centrum voor Agro- en Visserijmarketing vzw

    External partner(s)
    KULeuven - Dept. Biosystemen
    Effective start/end date1/06/0931/05/12