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Influence of Housing Conditions on Reliability of Immunocastration and Consequences for Growth Performance of Male Pigs

  • Kress, Kevin1
  • Weiler, Ulrike1
  • Schmucker, Sonja1
  • Čandek-Potokar, Marjeta2
  • Vrecl, Milka3
  • Fazarinc, Gregor3
  • Škrlep, Martin2
  • Batorek-Lukač, Nina2
  • Stefanski, Volker1
  • 1 (V.S.)
  • 2 (N.B.-L.)
  • 3 (G.F.)
Published Article
Animals : an Open Access Journal from MDPI
Publication Date
Dec 21, 2019
DOI: 10.3390/ani10010027
PMID: 31877705
PMCID: PMC7022942
PubMed Central


Simple Summary Surgical castration of male piglets is societally criticized as it is painful and violates the integrity of the animals. Pork production with boars and immunocastrates are possible alternatives. Even if immunocastration is an animal-welfare-friendly alternative, its market share is low and the reliability of this technique is discussed controversially within the pork chain. Currently, the number and the reason for non-responders to vaccination are not clear. Various factors may contribute to impaired immune response including adverse and stressful housing conditions. This study, therefore, examines the influence of different housing conditions on the immune response after two Improvac® vaccinations. To determine vaccination success, testosterone concentrations, GnRH-binding, and boar taint compounds were evaluated. Furthermore, the growth performance of male pigs was compared. The results show that immunocastration is reliable under different housing systems and prevents boar taint. Moreover, the growth performance of immunocastrates is high and even superior to that of boars and barrows after the 2nd vaccination. Accordingly, immunocastration is not only animal-welfare-friendly but also economically attractive and suitable for different housing systems. Abstract Immunocastration is a sustainable alternative to piglet castration but faces limited market acceptance. The phenomenon of non-responders has not to date been examined in detail, but adverse and stressful housing conditions (e.g., mixing of groups) might impair the success of vaccinations. Therefore, we evaluated the influence of housing conditions on the immune response after two Improvac® vaccinations at an age of 12 and 22 weeks, respectively. Boars, immunocastrates and barrows ( n = 48 each) were assigned to three different housing conditions ( n = 36 enriched, n = 36 standard n = 72 repeated social mixing). Immune response was quantified by measuring GnRH-binding and its consequences for testosterone concentrations, development of the genital tract and boar taint. Growth performance was evaluated via average daily gain (ADG). GnRH-binding and testosterone levels revealed that immunocastration reliably suppressed testicular functions after the 2nd vaccination. Housing conditions did not modify testicular function but influenced ADG as animals under mixing grew slower than those under enriched conditions. Gonadal status had only a slight impact on ADG except in immunocastrates, which showed a temporarily higher ADG after the 2nd vaccination. The results show that immunocastration is a reliable procedure under different housing conditions and competitive in terms of growth performance.

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