A pig producer in Belgium has reported that making the switch from surgical castration to boar-taint vaccination has resulted in better carcass quality, improved feed conversion and reduced antibiotic use.
In an article in Pig World, Monique Stinkens, who runs the farrow-to-finish firm 310 Topigs with her husband Luc, said castration was “time-consuming and endangered the pigs’ health.”
“We’ve been able to cut down on antibiotics use as a result, which fits in nicely with our government’s plans to reduce antimicrobial use,” she added.
The boar-taint vaccine isn’t a hormone and has no direct hormonal or drug activity. The European Medicines Agency defines it as “an immunological product, which has a mode of action similar to that of a vaccine”. This is because it stimulates the pig’s immune system to produce antibodies that ultimately block and reverse the accumulation of androstenone and skatole, the compounds responsible for boar taint, the article explains.
All of 310 Topigs’ production goes to the Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt, which stopped selling pork from castrates in 2010. In fact, it now only takes meat from gilts or Improvac-treated boars after consumer trials showed this produced the best pork.
As far as the Stinkens are concerned, they wouldn’t go back to surgical castration, although they acknowledged the difficulties of selling entires in many markets.
“As far as I’m concerned, surgical castration is not needed,” Ms. Stinkens said. “There are people who say it should be allowed to continue because there’s no alternative, but they’re lying to the public — it’s a practice that’s no longer acceptable.”