Consider alternative to piglet castration: vet

Improvest eliminates the odour emitted when cooking pork from intact males and is approved for use in Canada

Canadian hog producers will soon be required to give pain medication to pigs when castrating them.

The new rules are part of the swine code of practice and they go into effect in July 2016.

Dr. Dawn Magrath, a swine veterinarian with Innovative Veterinary Services, urged pig producers to make a plan now for doing that, rather than wait until the deadline looms.

Pigs are castrated to eliminate boar taint, an unpleasant odour that can be emitted when cooking pork from intact male pigs. The smell is created by naturally produced compounds in male pigs.

Magrath said pain medications, including metacam, anafen, pracetam and lidocaine, are already available, with a veterinary prescription, for use on pigs.

She said producers could also consider a product called Improvest as an alternative to castration.

Improvest is the brand name for a protein compound known as gonadotropin releasing factor analog-diphtheria toxoid conjugate and marketed by Zoetis. It is administered via subcutaneous injection behind the ear.

Magrath said the product is ap-proved for use in Canada, the United States and 60 other countries. However, pork processors have not em-braced its use for fear of negative customer reaction.

“Please, in a nice way bring it up to your packers because I think we need to keep talking about it as an industry,” Magrath told Alberta pork producers at a May 28 meeting in Leth-bridge.

She said the product presents no risk to meat quality and it’s easy to administer: one injection at 10 weeks and another injection three to 10 weeks before shipping.

She said some U.S. producers use the product as an alternative to castration, though the practice is not widely discussed or known.

However, Canadian packers fear the loss of the Japanese market if the product is used and cite the need for careful consumer education to eliminate safety concerns.

Zoetis describes Improvest as a safe alternative to physical castration. It is not a hormone, growth promotant or a method of chemical castration.

“There are no residues in the meat from Improvest that could affect human health, according to the FDA (U.S. Federal Drug Administration),” says information on Zoetis’s website.

The product has also received regulatory approval in the European Union.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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