An alternative to physical castration for male pigs can help US pig producers reap the production benefits of raising intact males without boar taint, while improving carcass value by $2.44 per head.1
The alternative is an immunological product that works like a vaccine to temporarily suppress sexual activity in male pigs. By inhibiting the production of androstenone and skatole — the naturally occurring compounds that produce boar taint — the injectable product eliminates the need for physical castration.
The production benefits of this approach are well documented. A first dose of the product is administered at around 9 weeks of age to prime the immune system, but the effect onIy appears after the second dose is given at finish. This allows producers to take advantage of the efficiencies of raising intact males — notably, faster growth and better feed conversion — without the downsides associated with boar taint and aggressive male behavior.
The benefits of the immunological product are not limited to the farm, however. An analysis of data from several published US studies reveals significant improvements in meat quality and carcass yield, demonstrating the significant value of this approach to packers and processors.
In a recent statistical meta-analysis, researchers from Zoetis and the University of Illinois aggregated findings from multiple studies to evaluate the impact of the castration alternative on important carcass attributes. To ensure relevance to US packers, only studies using US cutting standards were included. Reflecting current industry feeding practices, diets utilizing dried distillers grains with solubles were also included in the analysis.
Results indicate that the castration alternative increased carcass cutting yield by 1.23% and bone-in lean cutting yield by 1.9% compared to physically castrated barrows.
As hot carcass weight (HCW) increased for pigs given the castration alternative, carcass cutting yield decreased. However, when averaged across all HCW groups, the treated pigs still exhibited greater carcass and bone-in lean yield than physically castrated barrows.
Treated males also showed an average 1.5% unit improvement in bacon slicing yield of heavy vs. light physically castrated barrows.
Based on an economic assessment of values derived from this analysis and five-year average primal prices, researchers determined the increased primal yields of males given the castration alternative translated to $2.44 per carcass in value, compared with physically castrated barrows of equal carcass weight.
According to Alvaro Aldaz, director of commercial development swine at Zoetis, the significant and consistent improvements in primal value observed in the analysis demonstrate that the economic benefits of the castration alternative don’t stop at the farm.
“The results of this analysis show that this technology has clear and meaningful benefits across the food chain,” he said. “When US packers process male pigs given the castration alternative, they can do so with the assurance that they not only have nothing to lose, but also have much to gain.”
- “The effects of Improvest on carcass yield and value: A meta-analysis,” 2016. Zoetis, data on file.