Comparison of Intramuscular or Subcutaneous Injections vs. Castration in Pigs—Impacts on Behavior and Welfare
Physical castration (PC) is painful and stressful for nursing piglets. One alternative to PC is immunological castration (IC), but the pain and stress of handling associated with injections have not been assessed. The objectives of this study were to measure the pain and distress of subcutaneous (SQ) and intramuscular (IM) injections compared to PC in piglets, and to compare SQ or IM injections in finishing pigs. After farrowing, 3 to 5 d old male piglets were randomly assigned to (control) no handling treatment (NO), sham-handling (SHAM), IM, SQ, or PC. Finishing pigs were assigned to NO, SHAM, IM, or SQ. Behavior was monitored for 1 h prior and 1 h post treatment in each age group. Social, feeding behaviors, and signs of pain were recorded. Finishing pigs treated with SQ injections had higher feeding behaviors pre-treatment than they did post-treatment. Overall, physical castrations caused measurable pain-like behaviors and general behavioral dysregulation at a much higher level than the other treatment groups. SQ and IM injections did not cause either significant behavioral or physiological alterations in piglets. SQ injections caused a decrease in finishing pig feed behaviors post treatment (p = 0.02) and SHAM treated finishing pigs spent significantly more time lying than the other treatment groups. In general IM and SQ injections did not cause any other significant changes in behavior or physiology.