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Germany: Anaesthetics mandatory at pig castration

As from the beginning of 2019, German pig farmers are no longer allowed to castrate without anaesthetics. That decision was made by the German authorities late September.

In doing so, Julia Klöckner, Germany’s minister of agriculture, ignored substantial pressure from the German states. Some states, like Bavaria and Lower Saxony, and supported by swine farmers, had hoped for a postponing of the regulations with 5 years.

In vain, as it appears now. Castration of male piglets will only be allowed when the animals have been anaesthetised by a veterinarian. The vet will have to administer a cocktail in the right quantities. Costs could be € 2 per piglet.

Disadvantages of anaesthetics at castration

Apart from the costs, there are various other known disadvantages of anaesthetics around piglet castration. Usually piglets take their time to wake up; all that time, there is a chance for crushing and they will have to be kept apart, causing them to miss various lactation sessions. In addition, both hypothermia or hyperthermia can be serious side effects.

A ban on conventional castration in Germany may make many pig breeders decide to stop, politicians fear. Photo: Mark Pasveer
A ban on conventional castration in Germany may make many pig breeders decide to stop, politicians fear. Photo: Mark Pasveer

Alternatives to piglet castrating with anaesthetics

Alternative options to castrating with anaesthetics are the use of immunovaccination or the finishing of entire males. The former option is not yet embraced by German slaughterhouses, whereas the latter currently still has capacity restrictions.

The German organisation of swine producers (ISN) nevertheless stated in a reaction on its website that solutions like isoflurane or local anaesthetics may also soon be allowed.

Some politicians have indicated the fear that the measure will make many German sow farmers decide to shut up shop.

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