Castration of male livestock and the potential of immunocastration to improve animal welfare and production traits: Invited Review

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T. Needham, H. Lambrechts & L.C. Hoffman
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Growing consumer awareness about animal welfare has led to the assessment of the impact of common farming practices, such as physical castration, on animal well-being under production conditions. Physical castration is used in livestock industries to prevent indiscriminate breeding, control aggression, and improve meat and carcass quality. In terms of animal welfare, physical castration causes pain, decreased growth performance, infection, and mortality. An alternative approach to castration is thus warranted that will ensure optimal growth without compromising the castrated animal’s wellbeing. Immunocastration has proved to be an effective method of suppressing the development and functioning of the reproductive system in various domesticated and wildlife species. The effect of immunocastration on production performance is well-documented for both swine and cattle. Although ram lambs used for meat production are often physically castrated, information regarding the potential application of immunocastration in sheep is limited. However, immunocastration may potentially improve the welfare, performance, and meat quality of ram lambs used in commercial meat production systems. The purpose of this review is to compare the application and the effects of immunocastration on male livestock to highlight and motivate the need for further research into its use on ram lambs.

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