Application of immunocastration in a commercial Dohne Merino ram flock before weaning
AbstractThe influence of pre-weaning immunocastration on the growth, incidences of reaction to vaccination, serum testosterone concentration and slaughter performance of ram lambs was determined and compared to that of physically castrated lambs. Immunocastration was performed using two doses of 2 mL Improvac® administered subcutaneously in the shoulder, alternating sides per vaccination, using a Sterimatic® needle guard system. The first vaccination was administered to 50 lambs with an average weight (± SD) of 16.0 ± 3.05 kg, and the second vaccination was carried out six weeks later, when the lambs weighed on average (± SD) 20.5 ± 4.11 kg. An additional 50 lambs were physically castrated using elastrator bands at the same time as the primary vaccination given to the immunocastrates. Data were collected during four sessions over the 25-week period, at time points which fitted into the normal management activities of the commercial operation (Weeks 1, 6, 16 and at slaughter). During these sessions, all lambs were weighed, and blood samples were collected from immunocastrates. The immunocastration injection site was also scored for adverse reactions. Immunocastration was successful in preventing testosterone secretion for the duration of the trial and no differences were reported regarding weight gain or slaughter performance between the treatments. The Sterimatic® and Stericap® system, as used in this study, proved to be an easy-to-use and safe system for the commercial administration of Improvac®, with no adverse reactions to vaccinations recorded at the injection sites. Pre-weaning immunocastration in lambs is thus possible, and the growth rate, carcass weight and carcass fatness of immunocastrates are similar to that of elastrator-castrated lambs.
Keywords: Carcass, GnRH, immunocastrate, Improvac, sheep