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http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB118633665599888561.html

These Little Pigs
Get Special Care
From Norwegians
But Meat People Squeal,
And a Lot of Other Folks
Are Holding Their Noses
By JOELLEN PERRY and MARY JACOBY
August 6, 2007; Page A1

OSLO -- Farmers have been castrating piglets for thousands of years, which is good for the people who eat them but not so good for the piglets.

"Sometimes they get depressed," says Bente Fredriksen, co-coordinator of a $13.8 million Norwegian research project looking into alternatives to castration. Studies by Europe's food-safety agency found castrated piglets suckle less and spend more time apart from their siblings.


Responding to such concerns, and to animal-welfare groups' claims that the process causes piglets unnecessary pain, Norway's Parliament banned the castration of piglets starting in 2009. But that's causing a new constituency to squeal.

To many people, the meat of uncastrated male pigs has an objectional taste known in the pig trade as "boar taint." And the ban could cost Norway's 3,000 pig farmers millions of dollars as they trash tons of boar meat many consumers won't touch, according to Animalia, a Norwegian meat-industry research group.

The standoff has pushed this Scandinavian country to the forefront of a Europe-wide debate over piglet castration.

In Holland, where the Party for the Animals won two parliamentary seats in 2006, major supermarkets in June said that in 2009 they'll stop selling meat from piglets castrated without anesthesia. Swiss lawmakers also recently made anesthesia mandatory beginning in 2009. British pig farmers have avoided castrating pigs for decades, voluntarily, in part because uncastrated males produce leaner meat; they say they slaughter pigs before they're old enough to develop the taint.


U.S. pork farmers are watching warily. Animal-rights victories in Europe "tend to heighten the debate here," says Dave Warner of the National Pork Producers Council in Washington. America's 68,000 pork producers castrate about 50 million mostly unanesthetized piglets a year.

Researchers at the European Food Safety Authority say archaeological evidence shows farmers were castrating pigs as early as 4000 BC. That may have been in part to make pigs more docile. "Entire males fight a lot, and they're constantly mounting each other," says Ms. Fredriksen, of the Norwegian Entire Male Research Program. As adults, whole males and females can't be kept in the same pens.

But boar taint is the biggest problem. Not all pig breeds carry it to the same degree, but scientists say up to three quarters of people may be able to smell and taste it.


Eight-day old piglets at Harald Bohnsdalen's farm, with their mother.
The taint comes mainly from two compounds that mix in a male piglet's body. Androstenone, a steroid responsible for boar taint's tang of sweat and urine, builds up in porcine testicles once pigs hit puberty.

Boar taint's other main ingredient is skatole, which accumulates in male pigs' digestive systems. Together, androstenone and skatole create a compound that leaves many people speechless. "It tastes like...pig. Like a lot of pig," says Eli Grindflek, a geneticist with the Norwegian pig-breeders association, Norsvin, noting that the volatile brew reacts to heat. Cold cuts are less likely to reek. Still, she says, "once you've had it, you'll swear never to serve pork again."

That's what worries Norway's pig farmers. Harald Bohnsdalen, 41 years old, is a fourth-generation pig farmer in Leirsund, about 28 miles northeast of Oslo. He used to castrate up to 1,600 piglets a year on his own. But since 2002, abiding by Norwegian law, he has brought in veterinarians to do the cutting, and to administer local anesthesia beforehand. The process costs farmers about $1.70 per piglet.

One recent Monday morning, Mr. Bohnsdalen held a wriggling eight-day-old piglet upside down. Wearing heavy sound mufflers over his ears, veterinarian Hallgeir Flo injected an anesthetic and waited a few minutes for it to take. Then he extracted two little orbs. The cuts took about 15 seconds.


The male piglets are plucked out of their litters, put into buckets, anesthetized and then numbered before the actual castration takes place.
"We don't do it for fun," says Mr. Bohnsdalen, a six-time Norwegian plowing champion. "Castration costs money and it's bad for the pigs." He's resigned to the anesthesia law but thinks the upcoming ban on castration is premature.

Since 1997, the European Union has officially recognized animals as sentient beings able to feel pain and emotion. Norway isn't part of the EU, but it boasts an even more expansive animal-rights code. Norwegian pigpens, for example, must have largely solid floors strewn with something soft, like straw or wood chips, so pigs can lie down comfortably. In the U.S., pigpen floors are mostly hard and grated.

"It's important to me how the pigs are doing," said 27-year-old Elin Braaten, after shopping at a downtown Oslo supermarket. She said she hadn't heard about the coming ban on piglet-castration. But she likes the sound of it. If she ends up with any foul-tasting pork, she says: "I'll just start buying more lamb."

Norway has mounted a full-on assault on boar taint in advance of the 2009 ban. Geneticists are studying gene patterns to breed a taint-free boar. Norwegians are also working in cooperation with British and Danish researchers to separate the X and Y chromosomes in pigs' semen. That practice, already common in cattle breeding, would make it possible to breed fewer male pigs.

Still, few here believe a boar-taint fix will be ready in time for 2009. Norway's Ministry of Agriculture and Food has told the Parliament that the problem is unlikely to be solved in time, prompting a review by Parliament in October. "It's too much for a small country like Norway to solve," says Guri Tveito, director general of the Ministry's Department of Food Policy. "We need international research on a broad level."

Norwegian animal-welfare groups pushing to keep the 2009 castration ban in place say farmers should consider options including "immuno-castration," by vaccine. Since 2004, U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. has marketed Improvac, a vaccine that suppresses piglet puberty, as a way to sidestep the castration debate while eliminating boar taint. Farmers in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and some other countries already vaccinate. Switzerland approved Improvac in January. Pfizer is applying for entry to the U.S. and EU markets.

At up to $5 a pig, Improvac is more expensive than both physical castration and Norway's anesthesia mandate. But farmers say they save on feed costs and produce leaner pork, because the vaccine-induced castration lasts only for the few weeks before a pig is slaughtered. Still, Norwegian researchers and pig farmers aren't convinced.
 

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Up North said:
Putting the whole "to castrate or not" thing aside. It makes me mad when non-farmers are making farming decisions and then making it law because it sounds good.

Heather
Yep, a few years ago we had a constitutional amendment on the ballot making it illegal to use farrowing crates. It passed by a wide margin, and put a lot of farmers out of business. What does someone in Miami know about raising hogs?

Now, I don't particularly care for crates, but I'd never tell someone else that they can't use them if they want.
 

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The sex specific semen is the how this will be resolved....Many breeders are finding that the gilts are becoming the more economical choice...yes I know that they are not quite asfeed efficent, but they are dollar for dollar cheaper to grow out with vet cost and death rate added in. * my number are saying 2 dollars cheaper for a gilt than a barrow, My Boars cost about $40 dollars more to grow out with a special boar ration.* The current breeding lines are so far ahead...200 years are terminal breeding to come this this level of growth. With sex specific AI in the works in dairy for a small fractional cost on a large scale....This will be the long term answer, everybody is AIing anyway, It will allow a farm is maintain their current bloodline that fits their needs. I've read that it has already been done, now the process must be streamlined and competition must drive the price down.
 

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A good, simple solution is breeding pigs that don't have high levels of the taint taste. That solves the problem without having to resort to high tech expenses of semen selection, AI, vaccines, etc. There are already many pigs in the gene pool with excellent high reproductive rates, growth rates and other positive traits that don't have boar taint.

In other news there is research about diet reducing the boar taint in animals that do have it. I suspect that a diet higher in carbon, such as pigs eating pasture, would produce less boar taint.
 

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Norway has mounted a full-on assault on boar taint in advance of the 2009 ban. Geneticists are studying gene patterns to breed a taint-free boar. Norwegians are also working in cooperation with British and Danish researchers to separate the X and Y chromosomes in pigs' semen. That practice, already common in cattle breeding, would make it possible to breed fewer male pigs.

Still, few here believe a boar-taint fix will be ready in time for 2009. Norway's Ministry of Agriculture and Food has told the Parliament that the problem is unlikely to be solved in time, prompting a review by Parliament in October. "It's too much for a small country like Norway to solve," says Guri Tveito, director general of the Ministry's Department of Food Policy. "We need international research on a broad level."
Walter, they still have not developed a line of commercial hogs that are taint free...When they do I will be the first in line to try them....I have said it before...I hate the cutting process...new line or new extraction process for XX hogs, I'll be the first to change....but we are talking about the future in the above article.
 

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Walter-

I know you've told us before, but please refresh my memory--how old have you been able to harvest your pigs without boar taint?

Thanks.

Jean
 

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Jean,

We've been doing progressively older boars and are now up to 22 months. These boars are kept with the females on pasture and are actively breeding.

The vast majority of pigs are slaughtered before six months of age which makes them far younger than the oldest we've done. We have now done a very large number of intact boars of market weight. No signs of taint.

Cheers,

-Walter
 

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RedHogs said:
Walter, they still have not developed a line of commercial hogs that are taint free.
Oh? My pigs are a line of taint free commercial hogs. I sell them, in reasonably large numbers no less. Thousands of people have enjoyed our uncastrated pork and declared it delicious. That's commercial and there was no need to waste time, money, pain or effort castrating.

The reality is there are a great many lines of commercial taint free pigs but in your focus on your high taint Durocs you don't want to admit that anything else is of value. That's fine for you but the rest of us can move on to something better. Research has shown that the vast majority of pigs up past market age don't have taint and that is what matters.

Check out the definition of commercial just incase you're having trouble with that word:

com·mer·cial [kuh-mur-shuhl] Pronunciation Key
–adjective
1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of commerce.
2. engaged in commerce.
3. prepared, done, or acting with sole or chief emphasis on salability, profit, or success: a commercial product; His attitude toward the theater is very commercial.
4. able to yield or make a profit: We decided that the small oil well was not commercial.
5. suitable or fit for a wide, popular market: Communications satellites are gradually finding a commercial use.
6. suitable for or catering to business rather than private use: commercial kitchen design; commercial refrigeration.​


Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
http://HollyGraphicArt.com/
http://NoNAIS.org
 

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highlands said:
...in your focus on your high taint Durocs you don't want to admit that anything else is of value. That's fine for you but the rest of us can move on to something better. ....

Check out the definition of commercial just incase you're having trouble with that word:

com·mer·cial [kuh-mur-shuhl] Pronunciation Key
–adjective
1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of commerce.
2. engaged in commerce.
3. prepared, done, or acting with sole or chief emphasis on salability, profit, or success: a commercial product; His attitude toward the theater is very commercial.
4. able to yield or make a profit: We decided that the small oil well was not commercial.
5. suitable or fit for a wide, popular market: Communications satellites are gradually finding a commercial use.
6. suitable for or catering to business rather than private use: commercial kitchen design; commercial refrigeration.​
Was this really necessry? Can't we have a discussion without be condescending?

We all know that you don't castrate, and that works for you. I have no problem with that.

I DO, however, have a problem with the government telling us we can't castrate if we choose to. That's one more intrusion into our lives and freedoms that we can live without.
 

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I certainly think breeding pigs that do not have boar taint is something that should be done but I hate to throw the baby out with the bath water. If we stop breeding anything other than those that are deemed to be taint free, we would be losing a whole host of genetics in the process. I just hate to see any breed of animal selected for a specific gene or trait and all others considered useless. I would much rather see us preserve all genetic diversity. Who knows when you may need it!
 

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Walter, my comment on commercial is in regards to the standards placed on swine by breeders, buyers, the stages evalution programs, and state requirements.

I could sell your hogs because first they don't meet the legal requirements for the testing necessary to cross state lines under the current law.

I am required by the NSR to provide verified stress gene free hogs to my buyers.

In addition by 2009 the paperwork must also include a PRRS test.... 60% of the outdoor hogs in the US are positive for PRRS.

My customers indoor and outdoor use concrete feeding stations, All my outdoor pens include concrete to insure that my gilts are tested for soundness before selling. Your hogs and most salebarn type hogs are way to tight and underslung to in the rear to feed on concrete.

Walter you have been on my case, bashing my genetics for a year now and i have never commented on yours.

Conformationally, they are just subpar...The usda has a grading system that looks at the overall carcass quality and loin length and grades the hog. yours are 2-3's which is the worst. the overall lenght is below standard and your underline and topline are unacceptable for breeding standards. Your breeding records are none exsistent for providing customers with verifiable outcross options within own herd.

And lastly, No EPD's or show records......an outside source .... gradinging your proformance in comparison to a national standard. It's not enought to talk up your hogs, you got to step out against proven breeders and back up your talk.

I'm sorry it is a national standard to which yours don't fit...It may not be right, but a commercial line of hogs must be verifiable in conformation, health, and breeding and grade out 1-2 atleast 80% of the time.

I understand the given definition of commercial, In this context (the article above).... a commercial line of hogs is refering to the seedstock of the produced product....The produced pigs do not have to meet many of the above standards, only the breeding stock.
 

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tyusclan said:
Was this really necessry? Can't we have a discussion without be condescending?
Yes. This was necessary. RedHog insists that there are no commercial boar taint free pigs. He is wrong. There are. It is necessary to correct misstatements like that or they become taken for truths. He's running around giving out false information. The research shows there are commercial lines of taint free hogs. It's that simple. I don't intend to watch him lie and say nothing.

tyusclan said:
I DO, however, have a problem with the government telling us we can't castrate if we choose to. That's one more intrusion into our lives and freedoms that we can live without.
Good, then we agree completely. Look in my sig. I also don't want the government telling us if we should castrate or not, if we should tag or not, etc. If you some how have the bizarre misconception that I think the government should tell us what to do then you haven't been reading http://NoNAIS.org Connect the dots. I'm against government intervention.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
http://HollyGraphicArt.com/
http://NoNAIS.org
 

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RedHogs said:
Walter, my comment on commercial is in regards to the standards placed on swine by breeders, buyers, the stages evalution programs, and state requirements. Walter you have been on my case, bashing my genetics for a year now and i have never commented on yours.
No, RedHog, you've been on my case where you know nothing about what you're talking about. You make statements about our pigs where you don't have a clue as to what you're talking about. You promote the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) which is destructive to homesteaders and small farmers because it is a benefit to you. I've watched you lie and chew on other people here on this board. What puzzles me is why you're even here. You're not a homesteader. You're not a small producer. By your own statements you're doing it the confinement and penned method and in the big ag industry. Do you just like playing in the little pond and picking on people to try and make yourself feel better? Or are maybe you a mole for the industry or USDA?

Instead of spreading lies and picking on people I would suggest you actually make positive contributions.
 

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We need to be paying attention to this or we will be facedwith the gov telling us what to do an not do. I dont castrate because I havent found it needed. I am surprised that anyone would want to since it is a lot of bother and makes the pigs not do as well and in rare situations they die from it like with a hidden hernia getting loose.Castratioin costs time and money something the big commercal operations are looking to save which is why I think they are looking into stopping doing it. Of corse they will be able to say they did it to help the aniamals welfare as well. Good press for them. What ever.

Maybe redhogs just likes to come rub elbos with us little people. He has employeess to run his severlbusinesses so this is how he gets to feel more like real. I have noticed he has something out for highland and frankly redhogs owes highlands an apology. I try to ignore redhogs spewage.
 

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Walter...How many pigs run? How big is your farm??? Aren't you a full time producer?

Aren't you the only full time hog farmer on here?

I'm very small, I only run about 100 sows, most of which are outside right now on pasture. Am i a spy???? yeah people really care what you are doing?

I'm spreading lies???? Look at the article above....They are running and chasing to develop a line of commercail taint free hogs...PIC, Zeirke, Schneider.....nobody has a line that is taintfree for sale.....Find me one.

Find me a taint free line from a commercial producer....Norway has 3000 hog farmers and all of them are like me and need your help...they a can't find a taint free line to go into producrion today...they are concerned they won't have an answer by 2009.

You've call me a liar..... now back it up....Who has these magical hogs for sale?
Website please?

And how did this become about NAIS...I didn't even mention it.
 

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I still don't get where some say that castration is a lot of bother. It takes all of a minute to castrate a pig. I can do a whole litter in 15 -20 minutes, tops. That's catching, castrating, antiseptic, and releasing. It's just not a big deal.

As far as slowing them down goes, :shrug: maybe so. I've never seen where it slowed them down enough for me to worry about. I still have them ready for slaughter in 6 months or so from farrowing. That's about as good as anybody can do.

When I castrate I KNOW I don't have to worry about taint. I've tried to eat boar meat before, and it was not a pleasant experience. Or if a couple of the pigs happen to become sexually mature a little early, I don't have to worry about one of the gilts being bred. For me it's a lot of peace of mind for 20 minutes work.

If it works for you not to, that's great.
 

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RedHogs said:
Aren't you a full time producer?...I'm spreading lies????...Find me a taint free line from a commercial producer.....You've call me a liar..... now back it up....
Right there - thank you for the example, again. On the one hand you say that I am a full time producer, thus a commercial producer. Yet with the other side of your face you say there are no taint free commercial lines of pigs. That is a lie. I do have taint free pigs and I am a commercial producer. It is one you repeat in many variations. The fact is taint is the exception, not the rule. The research bears that out.

While we are much smaller than you that does not make our line of commercially viable taint free pastured pigs any less viable. Refer back to the dictionary definition of commercial above if you have any misunderstandings of the word. That is the official meaning.

We do homestead. From your description of yourself you run a confinement hog operation, a real estate business and a penned lot hog operation which you refer to as outdoors but it certainly isn't pasture management from the way I've seen you describe it. You have repeatedly described that you have staff to do your work, that you leave 'this task' or 'that task' to your staff. That is not homesteading which makes my wonder why you so like to hanging out with us small fry when you're really a big operator? And why do you hide your identity?

Another lie you frequent is that boar taint is required for fast growth and high reproductive rates. You're wrong on both counts. Our herd does not have boar taint but they have large litters and excellent growth rates. There are plenty of other people who have pigs like us and have spoken up here and on other discussion lists to that effect.

You choose to castrate and that is your right. May it ever be so. But routine castration of all boars is not necessary because only a minority of them have boar taint. The real irony is that some gilts have boar taint too. The castration is not solving the problem. Testicles are only have the issue. There is also skatole produced in the intestines and both sexes can have that. Better management helps avoid that.

I haven't attached you. You attacked me. Repeatedly. You have made personal attacks and attacks on my livestock without knowing anything about it. You attack out of ignorance and act like an agent provocateur. Perhaps you are. You hide your identity. Who are you? I'm very upfront and honest about who I am and how I do things. Lets see you do the same, especially since you're making so many accusations and attacks.

Your problem appears to be that I've questioned the logic of choosing to breed animals that must be routinely castrated in order to get them to taste right. You say castration is necessary, according to you boar taint is required to have better Duroc boars even though they produce smaller litters, fight more, are disagreeable, are less reproductive, etc. Those are odd reasons to like a breed but hey, it's your choice and I don't question your freedom to chose the breed you want to work with. I've

I disagree about the need for routine castration. Scientific research shows that the vast majority intact male hogs of market age do not have boar taint. Scientific research abounds that boar taint is not universal, not even in the majority and not necessary. If I had boar taint in my pigs, which I don't, I would work to breed it out while continuing to keep the other good characteristics and improving my herd.

It puzzles me as to why anyone would want to do castration if they aren't specifically getting taint. I'm not finding it in my extensive trials so I don't do routine castration anymore. I'll do it if a customer asks for it on piglets but I charge a lot extra. Castration costs money and time. It costs money for equipment, antiseptic, anesthesia (in Norway now), labor (yours or your employees), deaths (rare but happens from castration), etc. After castration the barrows don't grow as fast, efficiently or economically as the boars. Barrows are fattier which means more waste vs boars that put on more muscle faster, more efficiently and for less cost. When you castrate them you lose this advantage. This is the reason that in the beef industry they use hormone implants to get the animals to bulk up on muscle. It makes sense to just leave the natural hormones there that already properly regulate muscle growth.

Just like the public is becoming aware of issues like cage free eggs and farrowing/gestation crates they will become aware of issues like dehorning, castration, docking, etc. I want to head that fight off and avoid it. I don't want the government coming in and telling me how to micromanage my farm. If we eliminate castration ourselves then perhaps we won't have a bunch of desk-jockies come tell us how to manage our pigs like is happening in Norway. Selective breeding away from boar taint is a good move for the homesteader, the small farmer and for the big ag as well.

Don't treat the symptoms of boar taint with a little bandage like castration - instead fix the underlying problem through better herd management and selective breeding to achieve a long term solution.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/blog/
http://HollyGraphicArt.com/
http://NoNAIS.org
 

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Walter, i said that no one is selling a commercial line of hogs that are taint free, you called me a liar.....

Back it up..... I say you are full of crap....I work with producers everyday....My goal is to be inline with the needs and wants of the professional farmers (that i work with everyday both in farming and real estate development)....A taint free line would make millions if it was viable....I want this line.... The above article say 3000 farmers are demanding such a line and can't find it.

How can you sit there and withhold such valuable information

You can ask people to quit their current job(s) tear down their barn and pens, stop feeding grain....stop using quality studs...stop terminal and roto-breeding....stop managing farrowing... and just throw them out in a field and call that a line of hogs.

A line of taint free hogs is genetically free of taint....No matter how you farm, a taint free line of hogs is taint free on your farm or mine.....How i farm is irrelevenat to the discussion....The hogs you champion are not a line, they are a product of a farming style. You are not affecting genetics....
 
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