Late castration resulted in fewer irreparable ruptures and improved healing of scrotal hernias, which may reduce death loss, according to a study conducted at Dykhuis Farms, Inc., Holland, MI.

Scrotal hernias (ruptures) are a common problem in the swine industry, often observed around the time of castration. One study suggested that the prevalence of scrotal hernias in preweaned pigs ranged from 0.5 to 1.5%.

This study was conducted to determine if age at castration would impact the number of irreparable ruptures, preweaning mortality levels and incision healing at weaning.

A total of 3,080 intact male pigs from 602 crossbred litters were sired by pooled semen (327 line PIC boars). Since breed differences exist with regard to prevalence of scrotal hernias, maternal genetics were randomly selected throughout nine rooms within a farrow-to-wean unit.

Intact males were castrated at 4 to 6 days of age (early castration) or 8 to 10 days of age (late castration). All males within each litter were castrated at the same age.

When picked up for castration, pigs were observed for rupture, defined as a protrusion of the intestine in the scrotal area.

If a rupture was detected prior to castration, it was surgically repaired (photo). If a rupture was found during or after castration, the rupture was corrected with tape.

A subsample of barrows was inspected at weaning for incision healing and classified as completely healed or not healed. Healed incisions were defined as minor to no scabbing and no signs of infection.

Overall, the percentage of scrotal hernias noticed prior to castration was greater in late castration than in early castration (0.63% vs. 0.20%). The number of ruptures observed after castration was not different based on castration age.

In the same subsample of barrows examined for incision healing at weaning, more of the late castration barrows were fully healed than early castration barrows (13.9% vs. 8.6%).

Healing time greater than 13 days did not result in a greater number of healed pigs.

A simple surgical procedure or simple tape “diaper” take less than five minutes to perform and have a high success rate in correcting scrotal hernias in preweaned pigs.

Researchers: Katie Marcath, Michigan State University; and E.J. Ehinger, D.J. Mulder and T.M. Seals, Dykhuis Farms, Inc., Holland, MI. For more information, contact Marcath by phone (586) 651-0448 or e-mail