Influences of Immunocastration on Endocrine Parameters, Growth Performance and Carcass Quality, as Well as on Boar Taint and Penile Injuries.
Castration of male pigs without anesthesia is a significant welfare issue. Improvac®, a GnRH vaccine induces an endogenous immune response leading to a decrease in testicular steroids. Consequences of different vaccination schemes on testicular function and carcass quality were evaluated in immunocastrated boars (IC), surgical castrates (SC), and entire males (EM). Therefore, 128 male piglets were assigned to five treatment-groups and a long term follow-up group. IC groups received two vaccinations (V1, V2) with Improvac® at 8 and 12, 12 and 16, or 12 and 18 weeks. Testosterone-concentrations decreased significantly two weeks after V2 in feces and dropped in serum from V2 to slaughter (S) except IC-8/12 without differing significantly. GnRH-binding results indicated the highest values for IC-12/18 animals. While IC-12/16 and IC-12/18 animals showed boar taint compounds below the threshold levels, two IC-8/12 animals had concentrations above the threshold level. Feed-efficiency was higher in EM than in SC with IC in between. In IC compared to EM, a decreasing amount of polyunsaturated-fatty-acids was obvious and GnRH-vaccination reduced penile injuries. The examined vaccination protocols reduce penile injuries, improve feed efficiency and carcass quality, and reliably prevents boar taint, if manufacturer's recommendations concerning vaccination schedules are applied. Therefore immunocastration offers a reliable, animal friendly alternative to surgical castration.