Behavior of piglets after castration with and without CO2-anesthesia

Surgical castration of male piglets without anesthesia is a routine management practice conducted on commercial pig farms. For animal welfare reasons it would be beneficial to develop methods of practical pain relief.

The objective of this study from the Katholieke Hogeschool Kempen, Geel, Belgium, was to evaluate the effect of providing CO(2)-anesthesia prior to castration on the behavior of piglets for up to 8 d after castration in comparison with piglets castrated without anesthesia.

In 3 successive replicates, the behavior of 186 male piglets castrated with (n = 95) or without (n = 91) anesthesia was observed for up to 8 d after castration.

All piglets in a given replicate were castrated on the same day, before 8 d of age. Behavioral observations were carried out in accordance with a continuous focal sampling procedure that began immediately after castration and continued for a period of 1 wk.

Barrows anesthetized with CO(2) prior to castration displayed more interactive behaviors during the overall observation period than the other barrows (P = 0.0412), which may indicate better welfare.

Assessing all observation periods separately, differences in activity at the udder, lying, walking and interactive behaviors appeared to support the beneficial effect of providing CO(2)-anesthesia prior to castration.

However, these differences varied over time between treatment groups. The most important conclusion was that piglets castrated with or without CO(2)-anesthesia displayed behaviors indicative of pain and discomfort for up to 6 d after castration.

Therefore, additional analgesia may be necessary to eliminate the long term pain caused by castration even in piglets anesthetized with CO(2) prior to castration.

Van Beirendonck S, Driessen B, Verbeke G, Geers R. J Anim Sci 2011 Apr 29 [Epub ahead of print].

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