Kress, K., Weiler, U., Schmucker, S. et al. 2020. Influence of housing conditions on reliability of immunocastration and consequences for growth performance of male pigs. Animals 10(1), 27.

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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