Pain Control During Piglet Processing


Castration and tail-docking are common procedures occurring in the Canadian swine industry. Castration prevents boar taint, reduces aggressive behaviour and minimizes handling challenges often encountered with intact males. Tail-docking helps to prevent tail-biting, which is a significant welfare and economic problem within the swine industry.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) states that castration is a painful procedure for swine at any age. Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with tissue damage. The CVMA recommends that, "when castration of piglets is required, it should be performed between the ages of three to seven days with the use of appropriate analgesia." The use of an effective and approved analgesic is an important part of our commitment as caretakers to eliminate or reduce unnecessary suffering whenever possible. Furthermore, research has shown that pigs recover more quickly following painful procedures when analgesics are provided.

As of July 1, 2016 the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs (NFACC, 2014) requires the use of analgesics during castration and tail-docking to help control post-procedure pain.

According to the Canadian Pork Council, all producers registered on the CQA® program must adhere to the existing CQA® policy and all CQA® validators will assess and verify their compliance to the program.


An analgesic is a type of drug that causes pain relief. Analgesia can be given prior to a procedure in order to provide pain control throughout and after the procedure. Two main analgesic classes are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. An example of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory is Meloxicam.


An anesthetic is a drug used to depress neurological function eliminating the sensation of pain. Lidocaine is an example of a local anesthetic that could be used during piglet castration. Anesthetics require time in order to provide effective pain control. The use of an anesthetic (in conjunction with an analgesic) is required for pigs castrated after 10 days of age.

Products for Pain Control

The Canadian Quality Assurance Program (CQA®) does not permit extra-label drug use unless… "no approved products exist for a particular use." Products have been approved for the relief of post-operative pain associated with minor surgery such as castration of piglets in Canada. Consult with your veterinarian about product availability, treatment options and meeting CQA® requirements.


The swine industry is moving towards increasing animal welfare including pain management. This is especially important in regards to pain control during procedures such as castration and tail-docking. The Code of Practice for Care and Handling of Pigs (as of July 1, 2016) requires the use of analgesics during castration and tail-docking at any age. Consult your veterinarian about practices to implement on your farm.

Reference List

Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs. 2014. National Farm Animal Care Council.

Canadian Hog Producer Manual. 2007. Canadian Quality Assurance Program.

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