Surgical Castration Changes Struggle Behavior and Vocalizations in Male Piglets

Maria Lou, Beth Ventura, John Deen, Yuzhi Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This study assessed acute pain in piglets during castration through behavioral indicators. Piglets (n=88) were randomly allocated to one of two treatments: surgical castration and sham-castration. Within 24 hours after birth, identical castration procedures were followed for both treatment groups, except sham piglets were not castrated. Struggle behavior (curl ups, leg kicks, and body flailing) and vocalization (duration and peak frequency) were analyzed during the castration procedure. Castrated piglets kicked more frequently than sham piglets (28.8 vs. 21.3 kicks/min, SE = 0.09; P = 0.02). Additionally, 51.2% of castrated piglets displayed body flailing, whereas only 4.4% of sham piglets displayed the same behavior (P = 0.03). Castrated piglets responded with more high frequency (≥1,000 Hz) calls than sham piglets (23.6 vs. 18.6 calls/min, SE = 0.26; P = 0.04) and high frequency calls tended to be of longer duration for castrated piglets (0.45 vs. 0.27 sec/call, SE = 0.04; P = 0.08). Results indicate that surgical castration increased the frequency of leg kicks, body flailing, and high frequency calls compared to sham-castration, suggesting these may be useful behavioral indicators of acute pain in piglets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-417
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Issue number4
Early online dateApr 16 2021
StatePublished - Apr 16 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station for funding this project, and the UMN WCROC farm staff and Tracy Rheingans, an undergraduate student, for their help in data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Pig
  • pain
  • routine procedure
  • welfare


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