Effect of feed restriction on the performance and behaviour of pigs immunologically castrated with Improvac®

Animal. 2012 Sep;6(9):1420-6. doi: 10.1017/S1751731112000444.


For centuries, entire male pigs have been castrated to reduce the risk of boar taint. However, physical castration of pig is increasingly being questioned with regard to animal welfare considerations. Immunization against gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) provides an alternative to physical castration. Using the currently available commercial product (Improvac®; Pfizer Animal Health), a two-dose regimen of a GnRH vaccine is administered. After the second vaccination, a substantial increase in feed consumption has been reported, which may be associated with increased body fatness and decreased feed efficiency when compared with unvaccinated entire male pigs. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of a feed restriction on these traits and on the behaviour of 120 group-housed entire males (five pigs/pen) vaccinated against GnRH. The first vaccination was performed at 62 days of age and the second (V2) at 130 days of age. Pigs were slaughtered in two batches 4 to 5 weeks after V2. They were either offered feed ad libitum over the 22 to 114 kg BW range (AL treatment) or ad libitum up to a maximum of 2.50 (R2.50 treatment) or 2.75 kg/day per pig (R2.75 treatment). Behavioural observations and skin lesion scoring were conducted 1 week before V2, and 1 and 3 weeks after V2. At slaughter, the volumetric lean meat content was measured using an X-ray computed tomography scanner. Between V2 and slaughter, the average feed intakes for the R2.75 and R2.50 treatments were 15% and 22% lower than the average AL feed intake (3.20 kg/day), respectively. Feed restriction was associated with a reduced average daily gain after V2 (846, 932 and 1061 g/day in the R2.50, R2.75 and AL groups, P < 0.01) but had no effect on the feed conversion ratio (3.00 kg feed/kg BW gain on average, P = 0.62). No difference was observed in the lean meat content (71.8%, 70.7% and 70.4% in the R2.50, R2.75 and AL groups, P = 0.14), despite a reduced backfat thickness measured in restrictively fed pigs (12.0, 13.0 and 13.6 mm in the R2.50, R2.75 and AL groups, P < 0.01). Higher skin lesion scores were observed 3 weeks after V2 in R2.50 and R2.75 pigs than in the AL ones (scores 33.4, 27.7 and 25.5, respectively, P = 0.04). These results, combined with an unimproved feed efficiency and no marked change in carcass characteristics, suggest that immunologically castrated pigs should not be restrictively fed during the late finishing period.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Animal Feed*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / administration & dosage
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / immunology*
  • Male
  • Meat / standards
  • Orchiectomy / methods
  • Orchiectomy / veterinary*
  • Swine / growth & development
  • Swine / immunology
  • Swine / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / veterinary
  • Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • Vaccines
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone