Steybe, L., Kress, K., Schmucker, S. et al. 2021. Impact of housing condition on welfare and behavior of immunocastrated fattening pigs (Sus scrofa domestica). Animals 11(3), 618.

The aim of this study was to investigate whether the well-known positive effects of immunocastration on the behavior and welfare of pigs persist under varying environments. One hundred forty-four male pigs were studied with regard to their sex category (EM: entire males, IC: immunocastrates, BA: barrows) and housing environment (ENR: enriched, STD: standard, MIX: repeated social mixing). The vaccination of immunocastrates included two injections at the age of 12 and 22 weeks. Regardless of the housing conditions, frequencies of sexual and fighting behavior expressed by immunocastrates shifted from boar-like to barrow-like behavior after the second immunocastration vaccination (Mixed model analysis, p < 0.05). Penis biting decreased in IC after the second vaccination (Wilcoxon signed-rank tests, p = 0.036) and penile injuries were lower in IC animals compared to EM (Mixed model analysis, p < 0.001). Housing-dependent effects on behavior could also be observed in the animals at a relatively young age. Enriched housing showed a beneficial effect on play behavior (Chi-square test, p < 0.001) and the social mixing environment reduced the number of social nosing events (Mixed model analysis, p < 0.05). The positive effects of immunocastration thus are robust to all housing conditions assessed in this study.

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