How do producers control boar taint?


Below, you will find further detail explaining how to control boar taint

How do producers control boar taint?
For centuries, pigs have been physically castrated to prevent boar taint. In recent years, new solutions to address boar taint are being explored in order for pig production to remain sustainable. Any alternative to physical castration should be easy to adopt, respecting the pig's welfare, the environment and ensuring that pig production remains profitable.

John Crane
Diretor Associado, Desenvolvimento Global


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Physical castration
To date, most producers have regarded physical castration as the only way to meet consumer expectations for taint-free pork. Physical castration is a long-standing, traditional management tool to help producers eliminate boar taint and reduce pig injuries through behavior control (less fighting). As this practice has received criticism in recent years, some producers and producer associations are seeking alternative methods to control boar taint.

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Physical castration under anesthesia
In some countries (for example Holland, Switzerland and Norway) it is becoming common to use general or local anesthesia to reduce the pain and stress associated with physical castration. The rules on whether this is compulsory or voluntary, and on whether farmers or veterinarians normally carry out the procedure, differ by country. The effectiveness of anesthesia depends on the drug and technique used. This solution is often time-consuming and labor-intensive.

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Early slaughter
The two natural substances that cause boar taint androstenona and skatole start to accumulate in the fat of male pigs when they sexually mature. Therefore, early slaughter can help reduce the presence of boar taint.

However, the carcasses of young pigs often do not have enough meat to return a profit for pork producers, causing their overall return on investment to fall. There is also a risk that a pig will mature early and develop boar taint, despite early slaughter.

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Breeding of female piglets only
Another method to control boar taint is to select the sex of the piglet before birth using sorting based on sex chromosome and artificial insemination. This method has been successfully used in cattle breeding but the technique is still under research and no economic or practical solution yet exists in pig production.

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Breeding of "low-taint" pigs
Since the tendency to develop boar taint is partly inherited, it should be possible to select and breed pigs with low risk of taint. Early attempts to do this failed as "low taint" pigs also tended to be less fertile and grow less rapidly.2 With modern techniques for identifying specific genetic markers, progress is being made, but it may take another few years before it is ready for practical use in pig production. Higher standards of pig management are likely to be required as uncastrated male pigs close to normal slaughter weight can show problems of fighting and aggressive behavior.

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Vaccination to control boar taint
Vaccination against boar taint is a safe and highly effective solution that uses the pig's immune system to control boar taint. The use of the vaccine is as simple and reliable as physical castration in controlling boar taint. It can be safely administered by trained farm personnel and enables the production of high quality pork meat that is safe for consumers to eat.

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