Fruitful online IPEMA conference

On September 15th the virtual IPEMA conference on practical solutions to the issue of piglet castration took place. Around 300 people from 30 countries attended this webinar.

The take home message from the IPEMA webinar was that the process of moving towards alternatives of surgical castration is irreversible, even if the solutions applied within Europe differ.

Given the increasing public attention to animal welfare, the sector is faced with the challenge of ending surgical castration. Surgical castration with pain relief is still necessary for products that demand pigs of higher age and weight at slaughter. But for most products, there are other alternatives. During the webinar the pan-European network IPEMA (Innovative approaches for pork production with entire males) focused on two remaining alternatives: production of entire male pigs and immunocastration.

Fact-based solutions to issues raised by entire male pig production and immunocastration were shared by scientists from all over Europe. Click here to watch the presentations given during the conference, including questions and answers and the panel discussion.

Read more about alternatives to surgical castration.

No ideal anaesthesia method for castration

In an expert meeting, seven international experts from Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands concluded that so far, there is no ideal anesthesia/analgesia method for pig castration. This is the report of a first expert meeting. It is not and should not be interpreted as a full scientific review of all different methods for analgesia and anaesthesia concerning piglet castration.

The expert meeting was held on June 16th to prepare a science based overview of the mentioned methods of anaesthesia/analgesia.

The discussion on anaesthesia/analgesia methods is faced by limited scientific evidence and strong and varied stakeholder values and preferences. During the expert meeting, different methods of anaesthesia/analgesia were discussed. From local spray/gel anaesthetics to local anesthesia using lidocaine and inhalation anesthesia with isoflurane or CO2.

The experts concluded that so far, no method is ideal. All methods have their limitations. No method is outstanding on all relevant aspects. All experts felt that moving away from castration altogether is still the main goal. In this context anesthesia is seen as an ‘in between step’, in which it is of importance to keep reviewing the limitations of the different anesthesia methods. The meeting was closed, stating that it is important to communicate to farmers why the goal is to move away from surgical castration or towards surgical castration with pain relief.

Click here to read the full report of the meeting, or read best practices in rearing uncastrated pigs.

Economics of pig farming without castration

From 2020 on, piglet castration without anaesthesia will be banned in Germany. There are different strategies that farmers can adapt in order to farm without castration. A working paper of the German Thünen Institute of Farm Economics describes and compares the cost-effectiveness the different strategies. The strategies described are: fattening of entire males, vaccination against boar taint (so-called immunocastration), castration using various anaesthetic methods and local anaesthesia. An important conclusion of the working paper is that all measures are more cost-effective when farmers are allowed to carry them out themselves. 

Data from eleven typical pig farms were used for in the study. The alternatives of the current practice of castration and their effects on performance data as well as costs and, if applicable, revenues were estimated. The costs of boar finishing with vaccination (immunocastration) are compensated by the higher performance of the animals and a better feed conversion. Boar fattening – the abandonment of castration measures – is less profitable due to reduced payments by the German slaughter industry (boar price mask). Regional differences between the two methods were found. The effects of the surgical measure are more homogeneous between the farm types and regions in Germany.

Read the full report here (english summary on page five).

Pain relief medication

A new pain relief medication for castrated piglets will be introduced in Europe. The medicine promises a significant pain reduction for the piglets. It is a gel that contains both a short-acting and a long-acting anaesthetic, adrenaline to stop blood flow and an anti-infective to promote healing and create a protective barrier against infection.

The product can be used for piglets during castration. The farmer can spray the product onto the wound without the help of a vet, which makes the product easy to use. “It’s a very simple idea but hugely effective,” according to Ian Page, chief executive of Dechra.“The bizarre thing about this is that for many years I don’t think we realised how painful these procedures are to animals and now animal welfare is becoming more and more important.” he adds to this.

Read more about this product in international media, or read more about farm management on our topic page.

Presentation Annechien ten Have

December 11, 2017

At the IPEMA industry workshop which took take place in Cluj-Napoca on 29.09.2017 Annechien ten Have did give a presentation about her twenty years experience with raising entire male pigs on her own farm in the Netherlands. Her pig farm has 600 sows and 3000 finishers, family operated with group housing sows on straw since 2000 and fattening of non-castrated boars since 1995.
She indicated that it is very well possible to manage the higher activity level of the boars, taking into account the do’s and dont’s of raising boars who behave and react different. Not only the housing and management is important, also the feeding plays a crucial role.
She tries not to mix, have enough rest in the room, good health, good quality of the floor, ad libitum or high feed level, a special diet for boars (amino acids) and enough water. Her conclusion was: It works, but it is different.


EU: Castration without anaesthesia still common

Several years ago, the European pig industry voluntarily opted to stop castration by 1 January 2018. Against the background of that European declaration, the directorate-general for Health and Food Safety (DG Sant) of the European Commission has commissioned a study to examine the state of play in the various European countries.

Source: Pig Progress

Full article

Ferkelkastration – Der Ausweg aus der Kastrationsfalle

Dienstag, 17. Januar 2017

Neue Alternative für die Kastration von Ferkeln. Rechtsgutachten zeigt gangbaren Weg, aber Forschung ist nötig.

Das Ende der betübungslosen Ferkelkastration naht mit Riesenschritten. Zeitgleich wachsen die Beförchtungen insbesondere der Metzger im den Deutschlands, dass alle drei der zurzeit diskutierten Alternativen massive Strukturveränderungen in der Landwirtschaft zur Folge haben. In erster Linie wird das die kleinen Schweinem ter treffen, da sie die neuen Verfahren kostenig nicht stemmen können, so viel scheint klar.

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Quality of boars, barrows and gilts

Preventive measures like feeding, breeding and housing are effective in reducing boar taint Fleischwirtschaft Inernational 6/2016 By Gé Backus, project coordinator for the Wageningen UR research on piglet castration and also chairman of the European Expert Group on piglet castration. Quality assurance and quality improvement are important to maintain market share or achieve higher prices. It is expected that the relative importance of quality will only continue to increase in the future. Pork quality may refer to slaughter quality, quality of meat and on hygienic quality. Slaughter quality is about meat percentage, carcass type and ratio of meat/fat and meat/bone. Meat quality is about sensory quality (color, water binding capacity) and eating quality (tenderness, juiciness, taste and smell).

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Stopping piglet castration causes headaches in Lower Saxony
Editors desk
1 December 2016

HANNOVER Lower Saxony’s sows and pigs producers are uncertain because there is still a lack of practical solutions for the withdrawal from piglet castration without anaesthesia. According to informationprovided by Landvolks Niedersachsen in Germany, this must be implemented by 31 December 2018 at the latest. Although the various procedures are currently under discussion, the chairman of the committee on pigs in the Landesbauernverband, Hermann Wester, does not currently see any real alternative.

Continue reading (German)

Ferkelkastration — Ausstieg bereitet Kopfzerbrechen

1. Dezember 2016
 Niedersachsens Sauen- und Schweinehalter sind verunsichert, denn es fehlt weiter an praxistauglichen Lesungen für den Ausstieg aus der betübungslosen Ferkelkastration. Dieser muss nach Angaben des Landvolks Niedersachsen in Deutschland jedoch sp testens zum 31. Dezember 2018 umgesetzt werden. Zwar werden die verschiedenen Verfahren aktuell diskutiert, aber der Vorsitzende des Ausschusses Schwein und Veredelung im Landesbauernverband, Hermann Wester, sieht derzeit keine echte Alternative.
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