Livestock production is facing increased focus on challenges related to animal welfare, land-use and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), and the need for surgical castration of male pigs are challenging. The main reason behind castration is the prevention of boar taint, which is an unpleasant smell and taste that may be present in meat from entire male pigs. The issue of boar tainted meat has been attempted to be solved in a large number of projects. One of the main challenges has been the ability to detect the main boar taint compounds, androstenone and skatole, in a quick and cheap way. In this project, the level of boar taint on the slaughter line will be detected, thus enabling sorting of carcasses based on the boar taint status, for further research in processing. To find the best use of boar tainted carcasses thru research-based product development. Sorting provides opportunities through, among other things, a more uniform raw material and hence a more even final quality of products.
Thorough work has been done with an indirect measurement method to detect skatole and androstenone. The task means that two disciplines must combine their knowledge and together create results. It has been shown to present some challenges that have required a lot of time. The challenge is to find the right sensor for this use, with the detection of androstenone and skatole. Androstenone has proven to be particularly demanding to work with, and has been put on hold until further notice. For skatole, on the other hand, a development has been made and the sensitivity of the sensor is good. The sensor is able to detect the low levels necessary for the method to be used at slaughter line. The disadvantage is the low selectivity when the sensor is tested on extracted fat samples. This is because other components will give results that indicate a higher level than actually for the fat sample.
Androstenone is detected by people with the "boar taint gen", they are sensitive to androstenone. They are important to assess and assure the product quality through development of acceptable products for everyone, even the boar taint sensitive. "Boar taint panel" consisting of androstenone-sensitive assessors, who can also detect skatole in pork products, is under construction. Literature studies of possible products of boars have been carried out and raw materials have been taken from entire males for product development.
One of the main activities in this project includes genotyping of all male piglets born in the nucleus. Optimisation of algorithms that handle big data related to large amounts of genomic information coming from genotyping of male selection candidates will be completed. Analyses for skatole and androstenone have been implemented to improve the selection models for breeding development. Preselection with genotyped young entire males from nucleus is very satisfactorily and we can see that we are more able to achieve a reduction in boar taint. And that we have an increase in annual breeding progress of about 20% in the reduction of GHG and characteristics related to animal welfare. A full-scale boar production in Norwegian nucleus farms, will improve both genetic gain and reduce risk of inbreeding, which mean selection for lower boar taint among other traits related to animal welfare and reduction in GHG emissions.
Today, surgical castration is done with anaesthesia, by veterinarians. However, for the farmer, the animals and the community, production of entire male pigs would be of value for everyone involved in the pork supply chain. Boars are beneficial for meat production due to higher growth rate and better feed efficiency, which may indicate a significant reduction in GHG. In this project, this is now quantified to be 2.08 kg CO2 equivalents per kg boar meat, which is 15% lower than GHG from female and castrated slaughther pigs, which are 2.34 kg CO2 equivalents per kg meat. This research including documentation of the calculation of GHG from Norwegian farms is published in the international journal Livestock Science.
Simple calculations have been made on the economic effect of boar production. If all male pigs in Norway are brought up as entire males, it could spare up to 34,000 acres and an amount at about NOK 100 million for the pig industry annually.
This project aims to facilitate production of entire males, and will work towards sustainability of production systems with the best available science on animal welfare, the environment, the ability to produce high-quality food, meat quality and food safety, worker health and safety, and the economy.
The main objective of this project is to use current and new methodology to solve an important production challenge in pork production; boar taint. The project will identify new features and improvements related to boar taint in Norwegian grower-finisher: (1) A new biosensor for boar taint produced and implemented in a commercial slaughter line, and (2) A pre-selection algorithm including genomic estimated breeding values (GEBV) implemented for young male piglets in nucleus breeding herds.
This will be achieved through development of a new biosensor which aim to work on-line at commercial slaughterhouses, efficiently evaluating for skatole and androstenone levels in carcasses and meat products. The technology needs to be rapid, precise and low cost. Such a monitoring system will be used to prevent the entrance of tainted carcasses into the food chain, and new recipes will maintain good meat quality.
This project offers good opportunities to use GEBV for young male selection candidates by stopping castration of male pigs in nucleus. This requires genotypes of all male piglets born in the nucleus, as well as optimisation of algorithms that can handle Big data related to genomic information coming from genotyping. Main deliverables and results will be increased genetic gain due to the significant increase in the accuracy of pre-selection of young male selection candidates, and reduced level of inbreeding.
Among different strategies that have a positive effect on reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a finisher production based on entire males is really promising. GHG very much depends on feed production in pig farming, and boars are known to have very good feed efficiency. In parallel, the economy in all steps of the whole pork supply chain will be evaluated, and key issues will be to find realistic numbers for the benefit and the disadvantages, including socio-economic issues related to how male finishers will influence both consumers and producers.