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The effects of immuno- and surgical-castration on the behaviour and consequently growth of group-housed, male finisher pigs

By G. M. Cronin, F. R. Dunshea, K. L. Butler, I. McCauley, J. L. Barnett, P. H. Hemsworth

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An experiment was conducted to compare behaviour, in particular social and feeding behaviour, and consequently growth performance of group-housed entire and castrated male pigs during the finisher stage of production. Three treatments: (1) entire males, (2) immuno-castrated males, treated with ImprovacReg. at 14 and 18 weeks of age, and (3) surgically-castrated males, castrated at 14-days old, were compared to assess whether castration affected feeding and social behaviours. Twelve groups of 15 male pigs were formed at 14 weeks of age (47.1+or-5.50 kg). Pigs had ad libitum access to pelleted, commercial feed from two single space feeders per pen. Pig behaviour and feeder utilisation were compared during 24-h periods at 17 and 21 weeks of age, using time-lapse video recording. At 17 weeks, entire males and immuno-castrated males were more active (P<0.05) than surgical-castrated males (21.9, 19.8 and 16.1% of 24 h), but at 21 weeks there were no differences among the treatments (pooled mean 16.4% of 24 h). As expected, social behaviour at 17 weeks was greater (P<0.01) for entire males and immuno-castrated than surgical-castrated males (3.8, 1.8 and 0.1% of 24 h), but not at 21 weeks, when it was greater (P<0.01) for entire males than immuno- and surgical-castrated males (1.8, 0.5 and 0.4% of 24 h). While the mean time pigs spent in the feeders at 17 weeks did not differ among the treatments (100 min/pig/24 h), at 21 weeks entire males spent less time (P<0.05) in the feeders (76 min/pig/24 h) than immuno- and surgical-castrated males (110 and 107 min, respectively). On both the observation occasions, the sexually-active treatments (entire males and immuno-castrated males at 17 weeks and entire males at 21 weeks of age) on average allocated about one-third of active time to feeding, whereas castrated males spent almost one-half of active time in the feeder, assumed to represent feeding behaviour (P<0.05). At 23 weeks, there was a trend for entire males to be lighter (P=0.061) than immuno-castrated males, with surgical-castrated males in between (102.3, 108.9 and 103.9 kg). Thus, castration reduced social behaviour and increased feeding behaviour in group-housed finisher pigs. The results of the experiment also suggest that the social and feeding behaviours of immuno-castrated males at 21 weeks were similar to surgically-castrated males.

Date 2003
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 81
Issue 2
Pages 111-126
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(02)00256-3
Language English
Author Address Animal Welfare Centre, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Victorian Institute of Animal Science, 600 Sneydes Road, Werribee, Vic. 3030, Australia. greg.cronin@nre.vic.gov.au
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Aggression
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal nutrition
  4. Animal reproduction
  5. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  6. Castration
  7. Fat
  8. Feeding behavior
  9. Finishing
  10. Growth
  11. Growth rates
  12. Mammals
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. Pharmacology & Pharmacy
  15. Pigs
  16. Social behavior
  17. surgery
  18. Swine
  1. peer-reviewed