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Sustainability in pork production with immunocastration

A major challenge for EU pork production is the production of piglets. About 75% of male piglets are surgically castrated - many still without anesthesia. This practice raises strong public disapproval since the procedure is painful and causes considerable animal welfare problems. It turned out that raising entire males (EM) is not the long hoped for alternative, as boar taint remains an issue and welfare problems related to male behavior exist. Also the use of anesthesia during castration has disadvantages and violates the principle of physical integrity. Many of these problems can be avoided by immunocastration (IC). Our project deals with IC as an alternative with potential economic and ecological advantages. It can make the European pig industry more competitive – if it is optimized and gains greater market acceptance. SuSI is organized in 8 closely related work packages and includes experimental trials in four EU countries. During the first part of the SuSI-project, data and information from experimental trials are collected. Step 2 is the processing and analysis of specific data from these trials together with already existing data, step 3 the integration and dissemination. Steps 2 and 3 are the main tasks for the second half of the project.

Interim Research Findings

  • Standardized protocols for sampling, measurement, and evaluation of meat quality were developed and create a basis for a comprehensive application of state-of-the-art analytical methods within SuSI
  • IC reduces boar taint and animal welfare problems effectively
  • IC is ecologically very efficient. Precision feeding regimes may further improve feed efficiency and lower the environmental burden
  • EU pork industry faces ambiguity challenges to justify their legitimacy position
  • There is no organization or institution with sufficient power to lead the regulatory process for the surgical castration. Germany has an influential role in this market

In Germany, the end of surgical castration without anesthesia has been postponed for two years until 2020. This development affects positions of national and international stakeholders. Public discussion in 2018 showed that IC is not really accepted by the meat industry, and that the attitude of consumers is used as a spurious argument against it. Several organic pork organizations also omit IC, as they expect the forthcoming EU regulation on organic farming to ban the use of the vaccine Improvac. The reasons for this position, however, are based neither on fact nor on scientific results. These developments severely complicate a fact-based dialogue about the potential of IC to improve social and environmental sustainability in pork production in the EU. European expert groups of scientists and stakeholders will allow for the dissemination of SuSI results and encourage similar round tables for other countries. SuSI scientists actively shape this process and are at the forefront of it.

Messages to:

A) Actors from private sector (entrepreneurs, traders, investors etc.)

  • IC reduces boar taint and animal welfare problems effectively
  • IC has ecological advantages
  • IC receives high consumer acceptance, if communicated appropriately
  • IC is an alternative with potential economic benefits
  • IC can make the European pig industry competitive with much higher public approval

B) Civil society and practitioners organizations

  • IC produces high quality meat with clear welfare advantages
  • IC is a safe and reliable procedure, already used for many years by practitioners in international markets such as Australia, Belgium or Brazil
  • IC can be a profitable alternative for the farmers as soon as it finds full market acceptance

C) Policy makers

  • Should consider the above points in decision making

Knowledge products:

Processing and analysis of specific data from SuSI experimental trials have just started. Thus, a dissemination of SuSI-specific results is expected during the second half of the project.

  • First results from SuSi partners were recently presented at the IPEMA meeting in Belgrade (March 6-9 (
  • Nine SuSI-related abstracts have been submitted to the “Sustainable pig production session” 70th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) in Ghent, Belgium 26 - 30 Aug 2019. (
  • Dissemination activities linked to SuSI (press articles, articles in professional publications etc.) are currently stored in the internal SuSI dropbox.

Knowledge networks:

  • Linked to COST initiative IPEMA (
  • Participation at national round tables

Coordinated by: Prof. Volker Stefanski - University of Hohenheim (GERMANY) - Contact

Funded by: BMEL, VLAIO, DAFA, ANR, NWO, NCBR, MKGP and University of Ljubljana - Veterinary Faculty as part of the ERA-NET Cofund SusAn through a virtual common pot model including EU Top-Up funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no 696231).

7 research partners:

  • BELGIUM: Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research
  • DENMARK: SEGES Pig Research Centre
  • FRANCE: French National Institute for Agricultural Research
  • THE NETHERLANDS: Wageningen University
  • POLAND: Warsaw University of Life Sciences
  • SLOVENIA: Kmetijski institute Slovenije and University of Ljubljana – Veterinary Faculty


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