Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Boar taint research draws European interest

Dr. Jim Squires of the University of Guelph says Europeans are showing interest in his decades-long research into boar taint.

In 2018, a European ban on castrating hogs takes effect, so farmers are keenly interested in alternatives.

Squires began researching boar taint as soon as he joined the faculty at the University of Guelph in the 1980s, mainly because farmers wanted to avoid castration until males grew older and larger and it would be easier to identify the best to keep as herd sires.

Intact males also gain weight faster, yield leaner pork and are therefore more profitable.

On the down side is the offensive odour that some pork from mature males gives off when it’s cooked and the aggression among males held together in pens.

Squires’ research now is focused on the genes that influence the production of chemicals that give rise to boar taint. He has found genetic markers that identify boars that will have little or no boar-taint substance.

He has found that the Duroc breed has a higher incidence of taint than Yorkshire and Landrace. 

Durocs are widely used as the sires of the pigs that are raised for pork. Landrace and Yorkshire pigs are commonly cross-bred to produce the sows that raise market hogs.

Squires has found there are some Durocs that, even at 100 kilograms maturity, have little boar-taint substance, so he is optimistic that commercial producers could raise market hogs without having to castrate the males.

He is currently involved in a 3,000-hog trial that involves the use of the genetic markers to identify Durocs, Landrace and Yorkshire boars that will sire offspring with little or no boar-taint substances at 100 kilograms.

His research is funded by the Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement which is an organization created to provide genetic-improvement services to Canadian hog breeders.

The Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement has been a leader in researching and applying genetics to improve the quality of pork, the ability of pigs to naturally counter diseases and to improve the efficiency of hog production.