Researchers from the Thünen Institute of Organic Farming and the University of Göttingen are the first to investigate very early immunocastration in male piglets to prevent ‘boar taint’, which affects the taste of meat from non-castrated animals. Being an alternative to surgical castration, immunocastration induces an immune response against certain hormones thereby delaying sexual maturity. The project team collected extensive data on the effects on fattening performance, meat and fat quality, as well as on the behaviour and well-being of the animals. The results of the study have been published in the journal Animals.
A total of 109 pigs were castrated with Improvac© in three test runs, either very early, ie in the 3rd and 7th week of life, or following the conventional timing, ie during the period of fattening in the 12th and 19th week of life. The development of boar taint was reliably inhibited in over 90 percent of the test animals. The production performance as well as the behaviour and well-being of the animals did not differ between the two groups. There were no significant differences in meat and fat quality compared to the conventional use of immunocastration procedures during fattening.
“The early immunocastration against boar taint can be easily integrated into the standard working processes of organic and conventional piglet producers, which makes handling much easier compared to older fattening pigs,” explains Ralf Bussemas from the Thünen Institute for Organic Farming in Trenthorst. “The results of our study – the first of its kind to date – show a way to make immunocastration against boar taint feasible for small and medium-sized farms as well as larger producers,” adds Dr Johanna Mörlein from the Department of Farm Animal Science at Göttingen University.
The results showed that immunocastration as a non-invasive measure is particularly suitable for influencing the development of boar meat odour at an early stage without subjecting the piglets to the stress of surgical castration. It remains to be seen whether a higher dose than that used in the trial can completely prevent odour deviations.
The project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture based on a resolution of the German parliament.
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