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Tackling Boar Taint through Market-assisted Selection

22 January 2015

Since surgical castration of male piglets without anaesthesia is under heavy societal pressure, finding a sustainable solution to reduce boar taint has become urgent.

The practice is shortly to be banned in the EU and already many countries are finding alternatives to castration.

A research team from the Livestock Genetics, Department Biosystems, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at KU Leuven, the Laboratory of Chemical Analysis, Department of Veterinary Public Health and Food Safety, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University and the Animal Sciences Unit at the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), decided that one way to circumvent the animal welfare violation of castration is by raising entire male pigs while at the same time selecting against the tainted phenotype through marker-assisted selection.

Boar taint is a heritable trait.

The team of M. Schroyen, S. Janssens, A. Stinckens, M. Brebels, F. Bertolini, C. Lamberigts, K. Bekaert, L. Vanhaecke, M. Aluwé, F.A.M. Tuyttens, S. Millet and N. Buy looked at the MC4R c.893G > A mutation as a marker for growth and leanness associated with boar taint odour in Belgian pig breeds.

The study that has been published in the journal Science Direct shows that since slaughtering at a lower weight is often suggested to reduce boar taint, selection using a marker for that trait could be a promising strategy.

In the study amelanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) mutation, frequently described in different pig breeds as marker for fat content, weight gain and feed intake, was examined in relation to boar taint in pig breeds used in Belgian pig farms.

The study found that MC4R c.893G > A appears as a good candidate for boar taint odour.

However it also said that MC4R c.893G > A is not associated with indole, skatole or androstenone levels

The research team said that although results suggest an association between this mutation and a boar taint odour score assigned by experts, no association was found between the mutation and the concentration of the individual chemical boar taint components androstenone, skatole and indole.


Further Reading

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December 2014

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