I have developed a procedure for our show pig castrations. I’d like to share it with you and explain why it works well.
We have a “hanger”. When you hang pigs by their back legs, it is calming to them, much like twitching a horse or flipping a cow up on its side in a squeeze chute. We castrate once the piglets reach 15-20 pounds. You can castrate boar piglets at any time in their first few months. Many people castrate them early, around 1 week old. We have done that, but have found that with show pigs, testosterone makes a huge difference in growth and muscle development. At 4-5 weeks old, and 15-20 pounds, they have had time to develop appropriate muscle mass, but aren’t too large to easily handle.
Pain control isn’t something that farmers have traditionally worried themselves with, but I think medications have come such a long way that it is simple to make the process less painful, less stressful, and easier on everyone (both pigs and people).
I realize that is a 10 ml syringe. We actually pull up all we need, the administer 1/2 ml to each piglet. I wouldn’t do that with individual piglets (and we change the needle between piglets). But within a litter, I will use the same syringe of Banamine because it can go in the vein, so there’s no need to “pull back” to check if you are in the muscle. It keeps us from needing to go back and draw up a new syringe between each piglet. I have found that if you make it too difficult, then people will tend to skip this step. The pain management and anti-inflammatory are important to me and to the piglets, so I try to make it non labor intensive.
As you can read on the label, there is a slaughter withdrawal time on this medication. All medicines for food animals will have a labeled withdrawal time. Please read your labels closely and observe all withdrawal times. This is so important to keep people safe and allow the consumers to trust food animal producers.
After the scrub, I inject each testicle with 1 ml of lidocaine. This numbs the testicle so that the piglets don’t feel anything during the castration. By the time the lidocaine wears off, the Banamine has kicked in, and the piglets really don’t have any setbacks from the surgery. They don’t go off feed or feel bad.
After the lidocaine injection, I make a small incision at the bottom of each testicle and pull them out. Pulling is best because the tearing of the tissue actually helps with blood clotting. You must be careful here because some piglets will have scrotal hernias, where their intestines are in the scrotal sac with the testicles. If that is the case, the incision will need to be sutured to avoid further complications.
Antibiotics are controversial, and I have used them with varying success. We are cutting into the skin, and leaving an open wound. Antibiotics can be given with the surgery, or after the surgery if needed. I find every piglet has a little infection, so if I am concerned about the piglets having any setbacks, I will go ahead and administer antibiotics during the procedure. If you choose this route, the antibiotics must be long-acting. You can’t just give one injection of penicillin, as it won’t do any good long-term. Here is an example of a long-acting antibiotic.
We also administer a vaccine to all of the piglets at castration – even the gilts. I prefer this one, as it’s formulated to be a one-time vaccine without needing a booster. It protects against the most common respiratory infections. With vaccinations, you must remember to give in the muscle of the neck behind the ear. This is the area you should always administer injections, so that you aren’t putting things into important cuts of meat, like the hams. Also, be sure to “pull back” and assure that you aren’t giving the vaccine into the vein. That can kill the piglet. If you do pull back and get blood, you should remove the needle and syringe and give in a different area.
Again, there are many different methods to performing this common farm chore, but I wanted to share what I have found that works well with the least stress on both the piglets and the people performing the task.