World-wide, the castration of male piglets is a controversial subject. As pigs are considered ‘higher animals’ it is theorised that they feel pain and stress in the same way that humans do. In some parts of the world such as parts of Europe, castration of male piglets is banned, whereas in North America it is common practice. Laws and opinions differ, but it is commonly recognized that late castration without anaesthetic is cruel and inhumane.
• Castrated pigs are quieter and easier to handle than their uncastrated counterparts.
• The meat of castrated pigs contains a higher percentage of fat.
• When boars reach sexual maturity, the presence of skatole and androsterone can cause an unpleasant taste in the meat, known as ‘boar taint’. To eliminate the possibility of boar taint, male piglets must be castrated shortly after birth or slaughtered before reaching sexual maturity.
When to castrate?
The general consensus is to castrate as early as possible. The ideal is between the ages of 4-14 days. The testes have descended by 4 days and the piglet is still receiving antibodies through the sow’s colostrum and milk. Piglets should not be castrated later than 5 days before weaning to minimise weaning and castration stress.
The testicles of pigs are held much closer to the body than cattle or sheep; the only reliable method of castration is surgical removal of the testicles.
• The piglet is removed from the sow and taken to a distance where she cannot see or hear the proceedings.
• The piglet should be held upside down, with the head held firmly between the handler’s knees. (See opposite)The handler holds the back legs apart.
• Local anaesthetic should be given.
• The scrotum is cleaned and dried.
• The testicles are moved into the scrotum with the finger and the scrotum firmly gripped between finger and thumb.
• With a sterile scalpel, a cut of 1-2cm is made in the bottom of the scrotum. With gentle pressure the testes will pop out of this incision. The operator must ensure that the incision is low on the scrotum to allow drainage of the wound.
• The thumb of the operator is pushed into the pelvis of the piglet. This ensures that the cord does not break off deep in the animal’s body possibly resulting in hernia.
• The white spermatic cord is cut.
• The testicle is gently pulled out slightly further and twisted before cutting the blood vessel by using a scraping motion of the scalpel. This reduces bleeding.
• Any cord or tissue protruding from the incision is cut off and the wound dressed with Tincture of Iodine, Gentian Violet or an antiseptic powder.
• The piglet is returned to its mother and sow and piglets put onto clean bedding.
• The piglets should be closely observed for a week and wounds treated.
REF: http://www.fao.org/docrep/T0690E/t0690e06.htm#unit 33: castrating piglets