A vaccine against boar-taint could help pig producers reduce days to slaughter and improve animal welfare.
According to Fiona Reynolds from the University of Leeds, trials of the Improvac vaccine on boars, revealed improved daily liveweight gain as well as a dramatic reduction in aggressive and mounting behaviour.
“It has improved the performance of the pigs and those vaccinated are 3.8kg heavier on average, at time for slaughter, than those not vaccinated. And there is a significant difference in the number of lesions on the non-vaccinated pigs,” she added.
Pfizer Animal Health technical manager Nigel Lodge said the vaccine, which was launched in Australia 10 years ago and brought to Europe in 2009, had the potential to improve productivity and increase the competitiveness of the UK pig industry.
“The increased daily weight gain will allow producers to finish pigs at least a week earlier, potentially increasing profits and enabling increased use of facilities. This also means that in the future, producers will have the option of finishing pigs to heavier weights to meet specific demands of processors and retailers,” he added.
In terms of improved animal welfare, he said the vaccine was allowed under the RSPCA Freedom Foods assurance scheme, and some retailers had shown interest in it.
And research carried out at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala on 136 crossbred (Swedish Yorkshire dams x Swedish Landrace sires) males, found aggressive behaviour incidents seen at a rate of 23.8 times an hour in entire male pigs, 11.3 in surgically castrated pigs, and 9.0 in vaccinated pigs.
“Using the vaccine means boars are much less likely to injure each other during the later stages of production and in the lairage, so the risk of losses through bruising or other carcass damage is reduced,” added Mr Lodge.