Main research question
Through the SuSi project, European research partners aim to study the economic and social viability of rearing immunocastrates in pig farming. At present, the technique of non-anesthetized surgical castration of newborn male piglets is under debate throughout the European Union. One of the possible alternatives is the production of immunocastrates (IC). They work with a (less invasive) injection with a vaccine. After the second vaccination the young boars no longer exhibit sexual and aggressive behavior and the development of boar taint in the fat of the animal is greatly reduced. Earlier research indicates that immunocastrates show a higher economic and ecological efficiency during growth than the barrows (surgically castrated boars). After slaughter, their meat quality scores better on average than in the case of intact boars. For the time being, the immunocastration technique is encountering resistance in the European market, indicating that a large-scale conversion to Flemish farms is not forthcoming. More research is therefore recommended. At the same time, the scientific knowledge on optimal management of immunocastrates is still limited.
The goal of the European ERA-NET project SuSi, with ILVO as partner, is to increase scientific knowledge about immunocastrates. In concrete terms, we develop precise feeding strategies for immunocastrates and formulate recommendations in the field of management (including housing) with an eye toward optimal carcass and meat quality, animal health and animal welfare. We therefore strive for an economic optimization of the production of immunocastrates by determining the optimal time of the 2nd vaccination, among others. The ecological sustainability of immunocastrate production is also studied. The different production forms (intact boar, castrated boar, immunocastrate) are compared and the effect of the different management strategies is examined. Finally, we study how immunocastration is perceived through a consumer study in at least 4 European countries.
Although immunocastration appears to be a promising alternative for surgical castration, a large-scale application in the EU is hampered by technological issues and lack of societal support. We expect that more market-oriented and management-oriented research will lead to a larger-scale application of this method. It will lead to clarity about the degree to which raising immunocastrates will be economically and socially feasible. Results of all experiments are distributed to scientists, consumers and the general public. Meetings with stakeholders will take place at national level. The COST network IPEMA is responsible for the efficient dissemination of the results within Europe. In addition, we plan to present the objectives, progress reports and the final results at three ERA-NET SusAn seminars. Results will be published in scientific journals and national-level discussions with stakeholders are planned.