Reducing mounting behaviour of boars – tips and recommendations, WUR 2017
Boars on the way
The five-year Dutch research program ‘stopping the castration of piglets’ was started in 2009. The research results have provided important directions for solutions. The scientists involved have gradually unravelled the consumer response to products from entire male pigs, which is important for the appropriate use of detection methods. We have also identified the factors that determine successful boar management on the farm. Although still some challenges remain to be solved, we are convinced that we are on the right track towards a more sustainable production and marketing of pork products. This report summarizes the knowledge gained up to the present.Further information can be found in the reports of various studies, to which reference is made in the text. We hope that sharing our knowledge with experts throughout the member states of the European Union contributes to the ambition of stopping piglet castration.
Many factors determine the success of boar farming
If male piglets are no longer to be castrated, it is important that they are cared for properly. Boars behave differently from barrows and gilts. Pig farmers who stop castrating will have to learn to deal with this. In a study conducted at 70 pig farms, researcher Dr Carola van der Peeta- Schwering of Wageningen UR Livestock Research catalogued the factors that influence boar behaviour. Van der Peet: “Boars in a group display different behaviour than female pigs. Boars are often more boisterous, particularly when they reach the age that their hormones start to rage. A complex combination of factors has been found to influence their behaviour.”
The study catalogued a large number of factors that can positively or negatively influence successful boar farming. Van der Peet: “By modifying a number of aspects, pig farmers can influence boar behaviour. Nutrition is an important factor. Feed composition, daily rations, the number of animals in each feeding station and water provision all play a role. But accommodation, such as open pen dividers with clean floors and clean animals also affect their behaviour. Carola van der Peet: “It’s important to prevent factors that can cause stress or negative stimuli.”
Pig farmers and specialists
The researchers point out that pig farmers who make the transition to keeping boars are not alone. Many specialists visit the farm such as feed company representatives, vets or other advisors. They can use our research results to help the farmer to find out which factors can be modified to influence boar behaviour, emphasises Van der Peet. “This study confirmed that it is quite possible to successfully raise boars.”
The study was carried out by Wageningen University and Research Centre at the behest of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Dutch product board for livestock, meat and eggs.
Boar behaviour complex, but increasingly well understood
Light influence, group size and pen layout are nil.
Boar behaviour and the factors that influence it are increasingly well understood. Boars can cause restlessness by fighting and mounting each other. It is important for pig farmers to know which factors can positively or negatively influence this behaviour. The Dutch Product Board for Livestock, Meat and Eggs and the Ministry of Economic Affairs therefore assigned the VIC (Swine Innovation Centre) in Sterksel to study whether light, group size and a hiding wall in pens influence boar mounting behaviour. The study was carried out by Wageningen UR Livestock Research.
The researchers monitored pigs while they were exposed to green light or a gradually increasing light regime. The effect of lighting proved minimal: the pigs only demonstrated slightly less aggressive behaviour during finishing. Mounting behaviour did not change when the pigs were housed in larger groups (24 animals in a pen instead of 12). A hiding wall in pens also did not reduce mounting behaviour. Finally, the researchers concluded that mounting behaviour occurred less at night than during the day and less in the mornings than during the afternoons.
Behaviour influencing factors
Studying factors that influence boar behaviour is complex. Cataloguing the factors light, group size and pen size/layout made new information available on boar behaviour. The past year at 70 pig farms behavior observations were conducted. The researchers will further analyse the results of these practical trials.
The full results are described in the report “Effect van licht, groepsgrootte en schuilwand op gedrag van beren” [The effect of light, group size and hiding walls on boar behaviour].
Additional information can be obtained from researcher Carola van der Peet-Schwering (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Flyer WUR – Boars heading for 2018
Reducing mounting behaviour of boars
Managing boars (entire males) differs from managing castrates and gilts. Experiences with keeping boars differ between pig farmers. Some pig farmers observehigh levels of sexual and aggressive behaviour of the boars on their farms while other farmers do no observe this behaviour. On 70 pig farms these differences in behaviour of the boars in relation to farm management were investigated. This resulted in advices for successfully keeping boars. This flyer contains tips and recommendations to reduce sexual and aggressive behaviour of boars.
Alcasde final report 2010
Piglet castration in Europe
Alcasde study 2009