What are the advantages of ending castration?

First, it means higher welfare for the farmer and the pig by not having to carry out castration nor having to undergo it. Non-castration also means more sustainability, lower costs because the pig grows better and more environmental efficiency as less feed is needed.

Why don´t pig farmers stop pig castration on a large scale?

Pig farmers are used to castrate their male piglets. They’ve always done it and slaughterhouses did not accept uncastrated male pigs because of the alleged risk of smell abnormalities and boar taint. Up till now, many pig farmers have not included the economic, environmental and welfare benefits in their decisions. Still, not all pig farmers are aware of and recognize the benefits of non-castration.

What are the consequences for pig farmers when they stop castrating their pigs?

Stopping castration of pigs offers the farmer many advantages. The pig farmer is relieved of tedious work and he has less work. Furthermore, a castrated male pig grows faster; the animal needs less food and produces less fat. The pig farmer has to take specific measures in farm management and should pay special attention to several points on the farm.

Is there a difference in keeping boars compared to barrows and gilts?

There are certainly differences. A lot of research on EU-level has been carried out and practical information and knowledge is available.
Additionally, there are farmers who have built up intensive experience with housing and management of boars. Their best practices are available. It has great value to share these experiences and accumulated knowledge.
The European ambition Boars on the way provides this information via www.boars2018.com and various other activities such as presentations, information and discussion meetings and press trips.

What is the main challenge for the pig farmer?

It happens that boars overreact due to their hormones and therefore occasionally cause mutual anxiety (fight and pounce on each other). Much research has been done on how this can occur and how it can be prevented. Pig farmers who have studied it, reach good results and are perfectly capable to manage boars and profit from the financial benefits that come with it.

What keeps pig farmers from a massive switch towards boars?

The market – and for pig farmers that is the slaughterhouse- should want to buy and sell pork of non-castrated pigs. In several European countries and beyond, there is still resistance to meat from uncastrated pigs. This is often based on prejudices or stakeholders are not aware of the detection systems that can ensure the proper quality.
Customers then choose traditionally meat from castrated pigs to avoid the perceived risk of boar taint. However, the benefits for pig farmers are large. Boars are financially more attractive than gilts and barrows.

Is there a difference in performances or causing boar taint when males and females are bred in the same pens versus when they are bred separated? What is the situation in the various European countries? Are male and female pigs bred in the same pens or separately?

International research results provide a mixed picture. Some are in favour of mixed pens, others in favour of separate housing.
Research in the Sterksel Swine Innovation Centre does not show a preference for one of the two methods. Both give comparable results.
At the moment there is nog Information or research results from other countries.  Dutch pig farmers breed their male and female pigs in most cases in separate pens.
There is no information available about the situation in other EU countries.