Surgical castration of male pigs is a practice that will probably be abandoned in Europe in the future because of general protest against pain in animals and a growing concern on (farm) animal welfare. Rearing entire males will therefore inevitably be integrated in the pig sector. In the present study, possible differences in behavior, production results and meat quality between entire males and gilts, both housed in single-sex groups but with
visual contact to other groups, were investigated. The influence of the location of the pen (next to a group of the same sex or next to a group of the opposite sex) was also looked at.
A total of 141 hybrid pigs – 70 entire males and 71 gilts – heterozygous for the halothane gene, were observed from 18 to 24 weeks of age. During this period, boars were more active than gilts and displayed more aggression and mounting behavior. Housing boars next to a pen with gilts increased explorative and drinking behavior. Gilts housed next to a boar pen tended to show less inactivity. Considering production results, boars tended to have a
higher growth during the final phase but gilts showed better carcass traits. High skin lesion scores were more frequent in boars.