Sunday, September 4, 2011

Proceded with Caution: Castration Ahead

In the past I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger award and then again just recently by Chris. Maybe that is why I feel compelled to jump from soap making to calf care to GK (grand kid for you new followers) fun, to farmer issues like raw milk sales, and then to today's blog...

piglet castration,

because, you see, I'd hate for any of you to get bored.

Now back to the nutsacks. I could get all technical with you but that would require a few Google jumps to ensure my terminology was correct. Instead, since it is Sunday and a day of rest, I will speak in simple terms.

If you have followed me in the past you might recall we do not always castrate all our male pigs, but we do castrate most. Non-castrated males do produce excellent meat but that meat does have a stronger smell during the cooking process. Some of our customers and we ourselves do not mind the smell at all, but for those who do, we castrate.

We have learned that the younger the piglet the easier the procedure is for them. We try to get them castrated at 5-10 days. When I first tried to learn how to do it I found very little GOOD info on the topic with the exception of that written by Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm. The majority of information is written or video recorded by conventional or confinement pig farmers. Walter however, has had great success by breeding the smell out of his herd. A goal of ours which will take time.

Watching a few videos of mass castrations under dirty conditions done inhumanely, made me sick. I even ran across a video on You-Tube of eejit hired hands castrating a 200 pound plus boar. The procedure was barbaric. Watching these helped me understand what NOT to do. Yesterday we castrated 5 little ones and I took pics as I was able but I missed the key pasts since I wasn't able to cut and click simultaneously.

Next time I will have someone videotape me so maybe I can be of more help to a newbie out there. This is only my 6th time but having 25 years nurse experience certainly helped. No, cringing ones, I have never castrated humans, even though I have run across several in my life that I might have liked to, but I have used a scalpel many times so I was not a totally incision niave'.

First step, secure the mama pig. In the earlier castration events we thought an electric fence between us, the screeching piglets and the mama sow was enough barrier. HA ! OH man did we all run and jump wires that day as the angry mother hog ran us down like a locomotive going downhill the face of Mount Rushmore. Our 20 year old son Kyle helped us that day and lept no less than 10 feet straight up to get out of furious mama pigs way !

He has not helped us castrate pigs since that day.

Now. we lure mama into a very secure metal livestock trailer (with some milk soaked grain) and LOCK the doors behind her before we go near the little ones. With the larger mothers we have been known to weld the doors closed.

                                                  Step two is identification of male babies.

Cutting into female babies just makes for future enemies when they are old enough to have babies of their own. Testicles on piglets are very easy to see on youngsters.

Step 3 is taking babies FAR, FAAAR away from the ma. We like to carry them in a big bucket

Out of sight and hearing we take them into our machine shed. The fact that it is just another set of steel doors between us and the mother makes the job less stressful for all concerned. Now, gather your equipment. Iodine or Betadine (you'll need about 5 cc per piglet) scalpel with blade and some paper towels.

DO NOT try to save a few pennies by using the same blade for all your piglets. Using a new blade for each baby gives you a nice clean incision. If you reuse blades, the skin will tear instead of cut and you will be spreading dirt and bacteria from one baby into the open incision of another. In addition a good sharp blade is far less painful than a dull blade.

Then, one at a time, piglet is held securely by helper. Helper should be physically strong enough to hold four wriggly little limbs and emotionally strong enough to assist with a procedure which involves a little blood. TRUST is also a major factor. Not many husbands I know would hold a squirming object in their own lap while wife points a sharp instrument in that same direction.

Before making the first cut the area needs to be cleansed with a nice rub of Iodine. Splash it on in good amounts and rub well. Not only does it clean the area it also relaxes the piglet. Imagine that.

We like this position as gravity helps the the testicles move downward. I could mention here how the helpers testicles move in the opposite direction out of fear but that would be crude would it not ?

                                                        With a good clean work area...

I'll make the first cut. I secure the testicle with fingers of my left hand and cut vertically downwards. Don't worry about cutting too deep as you will be going into the testicle which is being removed. Do be careful about cutting too long as the bigger the incision the longer the healing. I will then push the testicle through the opening and grabbing it firmly, pull it away from the body so I can cut both the tiny blood vessel and the spermatic cord. I repeat on the other side.  The testicle looks like this

These openings look large but keep in mind the piglet is small so incisions are less than one inch long each. After wards I squirt openings with large amts of Iodine  and then return them to mommy. The best medicine of all. Piglets will be able to walk immediately, many RUN back to their mothers which always makes me they have less pain or do they tolerate it differently than humans?

Watch for excessive bleeding, there will be some dribbling over the next hour, which is normal but if you see blood spurting out then you've nicked or cut an artery and you're going to have a dead piggie in a very short time if you don't call a vet. Apply direct and firm pressure to the bleeding site until the vet can get to you. and watch for those who are not active or not nursing. The incisions heal closed in about 3 days time.


PS. This is the only "alteration" we do to our piglets. We do not clip eye teeth, we do not cut tails, we do not even notch ears.

 PSS Allana (7 yr old GK) wants me to tell all of you the testicles look like shrimp. The end.


  1. My intro into hog castration was my sophmore year in HS. My Ag teacher castrated my 90lb pig while I (and a slew of other students) sat on it....Seemed miffed that we didn't do a better job of holding him still! Very tramatic for all involved.

    I asked why they waited so long, he said that if done too early, they didn't grow as well.

    Next year I bought a pig who was castrated young (around a week old) he grew just as nicely as my late castrated pig from the previous year....Possibly a bit better in fact, because my pig who was done at 90lbs went off feed for a bit, and lost a bit of weight from the stress of it. :(

    Great post! I've never castrated on my own (other than banding a goat) but I'm getting lessons this year as any buck kids to be done will be cut instead of banded (from what I saw the males cut early get over it faster than the boys we banded).

  2. Not that I really liked seeing the up close and personal results of castraton but it did bring back memories of mom and dad with empty feed sacks tied around their waists doing the job. Mom hated it but we girls were too squeamish. Poor little babies.

  3. Ok, you warned me. I'm not a farm girl, but both sets of grandparents had farms - more cattle than anything, and definitely no pigs. I think I almost fainted.

  4. Whatever you do, dont give me the link to the video. I'm thinking in a high voice now!

  5. Crystal, yes your HS teacher was a barbarian but he was probably taught that way and continued without asking questions. Our castrated males grow fast. At 6 monhs they weigh between 250-300 pounds. Growth, we have found , is only partially regulated by hormones and genetics. Good care, lots of pasture, healthy feed and of course about 2 gal a day of our raw milk is what makes them grow handsomely.

    MBJ, your folks must have had a huge farm to have to carry so many testicles in feed sacks. Our few go to the cats. We waste very little around here. Makes for happy kitties.

    Amy, sorry for the shocker. What can I say ? I'm versatile ! You'll be happy to know all babies are doing very very well.

    Cro, sadly, after years as a nurse I have learned to eat after any procedure and believe me, this little castration was nothing like the gore I used to see when I worked on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota !

    Rare, rest easy. You are safe. A whole ocean away. But then again, I am a strong swimmer.

  6. Great job explaining how all that works...I had no idea! I'm glad to hear that the little piggies are all doing well after their procedure! :)

  7. Great posting. Will be keeping this one taged for this winters herd. Now looking for a very strong horse trailer. Maybe make a bear trap out of a culvert. Should be strong enough to keep Mama away!

  8. I have done this! Very good instructions!! We knew momma would probably come after us so My girls stayed in the back of the truck. We took the piglets into the a camper trailer on the Other side of the truck and shut the door.. We would do the deed and I would run it back to momma.. By the time we got them done and back to momma she had just about lifted the panel to go under it!
    My most traumatic experience castrating was cutting calves... I will NOT do that again!!! Nothing wrong with banding.. works just fine!lol That is what I do to my goats at about 12 weeks old..

  9. Your post reminds me watching this done as a child...just like rewatching a movie. The only difference was instead of a scalpel a double sided razor blade broke in half was used. And yes they sure did run back to momma!

  10. I crown you: "Queen of Versatile Blogging"!

    This post is why we buy our pigs castrated versus thinking we could ever become pig raising farmers:))

  11. I need some smelling salts, but this is why I LOVE your blog. You are a TEACHER!!!!!!!!!!! Keep it up. I hope many people will benefit from your lessons.

    Your devoted pupil who is trying to get moved to the farm.


  12. Your post reminds me watching this done as a child...just like rewatching a movie. The only difference was instead of a scalpel a double sided razor blade broke in half was used. And yes they sure did run back to momma!

  13. animal abuser, mutilating defenseless innocent babies. karma's a bitch