Castration in the U.S. Swine Industry: Animal Welfare Implications and Alternatives
Removal of the testicles (castration) is a prevalent procedure within the US swine industry. Because only a small percentage of swine are selected for mating, the vast majority of male piglets (boars) are destined for processing (meat production) and are castrated. Boars are castrated to limit behavioral issues during rearing, and to ensure appropriate meat quality, by avoiding “boar taint”. As the boars grow and mature, they may develop aggressive tendencies towards their pen mates, and attempt to mate with females in the pen. These behaviors could increase the risk of lameness and injury for both boars and their pen mates. Mature boars could also be aggressive towards farm staff. Surgical castration is the most common method of castration in the US. However, a relatively new option for producers is immunocastration, and some are transitioning to this. Here we discuss considerations for animal welfare, economics, and potential -future- alternatives.
This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Multistate NC1029 project 1024623 and the Virginia Pork Council.
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December 11, 2020