Borell, E. V., Bonneau, M., Holinger, M. et al. 2020. Welfare aspects of raising entire male pigs and immunocastrates. Animals 10(11), 2140.
For a long time, scientists assumed that newborns have a severely limited sense of pain (if any). However, this assumption is wrong and led to a “start of the exit” from piglet surgical castration. Some of the currently discussed or already implemented alternatives such as general or local anaesthesia during surgical castration raise additional welfare concerns as well as legal problems and/or are hardly applicable. The favoured long-term, welfare-friendly “gold standard” is to raise entire male pigs (EM). However, this may also impose certain welfare problems under the current conventional housing and management conditions. The specific types of behaviour displayed by EM such as mounting and aggressive behaviours but also increased exploration, which are partially linked to sexual maturation, increase the risk for injuries. The current status of knowledge (scientific literature and farmer experiences) on housing of EM suggests that environmental enrichment, space, group-stability, social constellation, feeding (diet and feeder space), health and climate control are critical factors to be considered for future housing systems. From an animal welfare point of view, an intermediate variant to be favoured to reduce problematic behaviour could be to slaughter EM before reaching puberty or to immunize boars early on to suppress testicular function. Immunization against endogenous GnRH can reduce EM-specific problems after the 2nd vaccination.