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SPACE: Castration headache for French pig farmers

Piglet castration without the use of anaesthesia will be banned in France as from January 1, 2022. Even though that moment is only 3 months away, in the French swine industry many questions remain as to how to anticipate on this.

The issue of castration was highlighted at the recent SPACE trade show in Rennes, France. In side symposia attention was given to the pending changes.

If castration does not have to be performed, it means less work for producers. - Photo: Herbert Wiggerman
If castration does not have to be performed, it means less work for producers. - Photo: Herbert Wiggerman

Many slaughterhouses not ready to accept boars

The castration regulations are giving France’s swine producers a hard time, explained Valérie Courboulay (pictured), specialist in animal welfare at the French Pork and Pig Institute (IFIP). The main issue is that many slaughterhouses as well as meat processors are not ready to largely dealing with meat from entires. At the moment, roughly 25% of the male pigs is not being castrated in France – with the expectation that this amount will grow to 30% by the end of the year.

There are currently 3 alternatives for pig producers: keeping entires, using immunocastration or using local anaesthetics with analgesics. Performing complete anaesthesia on piglets is a job that pig producers are not allowed to do. So far, it is unclear which option will be the prevalent one by the time 2022 comes. Corboulay said that the market will be leading in this.

Piglet castration rules are unclear

One other thing that is not 100% clear for swine producers is how anaesthetics will have to be applied and under which conditions. For local anaesthetics, lidocaine can be used. Also, a strategy involving the gel type Tri-solfen is currently in the picture to play a role, even though that last product is still in the experimental phase and has not been approved for use.

Vaccination to avoid physical piglet castration

Immunocastration using vaccination is a niche in France. About 30% of the producers has chosen this approach. They produce for a special concept for finisher pigs that are being sent to slaughter at 150 kg, in which physical castration is not allowed.

Cooperl: Leading the way

The French pig cooperative Cooperl is the only slaughterhouse in France dealing with entire boars. Pig producers do have a wish to stop castrating. For them, there are clear advantages, like less work and better technical performance. Insiders say that there is no way back. The bill has been turned into law and will be effective in 3 months from now. Animal welfare organisations put a lot of pressure on the swine industry to make producers stop castrating.