Immunocastration, a technique consisting of two vaccinations against gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), can be used as alternative to surgical castration of piglets. It reduces boar taint and allows higher economic and ecological efficiency compared to barrows. The feeding strategy of immunocastrates, however, can still be improved. After second vaccination, when immunisation becomes fully effective, feed intake of immunocastrates increases sharply. This study aimed to investigate whether energy intake of immunocastrates after second vaccination could be reduced by lowering the dietary energy level of the finishing phase, without negatively affecting animal performance and quality of pork production. We hypothesised that immunocastrates already reach their limits in voluntary feed intake after second vaccination, and therefore would not be able to compensate the lower dietary energy level, in contrast to barrows. Therefore, this study aimed to assess the effect of high-energy diet (HE, net energy (NE) = 10.2 MJ/kg) compared to low-energy diet (LE, NE = 8.8 MJ/kg) in barrows and immunocastrates and as a reference, gilts and entire male pigs on a standard high-energy diet were included. CP and standardised ileal digestible amino acid levels were similar in both diets. For each treatment, eight pen replicates of six pigs per pen were evaluated on performance, carcass quality, meat and fat quality, digestibility, economic and ecological sustainability, behaviour and effectiveness of immune response. No difference in feed intake of immunocastrates between LE and HE could be demonstrated. As a result, daily energy intake of immunocastrates was higher on HE compared to LE, which resulted in a higher daily gain on HE. Feed conversion ratio (FCR) of immunocastrates on HE did not differ significantly with FCR of entire males. Barrows did not show higher average daily gain on HE compared to LE. Nitrogen efficiency was better in HE compared to LE, without negative effects on digestibility, carcass quality, economic parameters, behaviour or immune response. Small positive effects on the palatability of the meat of immunocastrates on HE were observed, although consumers did not prefer one of both feeds. Immunocastration was successful in reducing sexual and aggressive behaviour as well as in lowering the prevalence of boar taint from 15% in EM to 0% in immunocastrates. However, in two out of 96 immunocastrates (one on HE and one on LE), the immunocastration was not fully effective. In conclusion, this study did not show advantages of feeding immunocastrates or barrows a low-energy diet.
- Energy concentration