A boar is defined as an un-castrated pig over 9 months of age. They are kept on pig farms for breeding or to encourage the sows to become ready to mate. Like their female counterparts, the boars confined on factory farms suffer greatly.
Usually they have no opportunity to root around for food, wallow in mud to cool off and care for their skin, or create a nest for sleeping; all inherent behaviour that is observed when pigs are given the freedom to express their natural instincts.
It is difficult to find specific details on the number of boars held on New Zealand farms but fewer pig farms keep their own boars for breeding than in the past, since many rely on supplies of commercial semen to impregnate sows.
Although boars in New Zealand can no longer be kept in boar stalls, (similar to sow stalls), they can be kept in cramped concrete pens. There is almost no minimum standard for the space they are allowed. The New Zealand Code of Welfare for pigs simply says, “Boars must be provided with sufficient space so that they can stand up, turn around and lie comfortably in a natural position, and that provides for separation of dunging, lying and eating areas.” However, there is more to the life of a boar than simply being able to turn around; or at least there should be!
On a factory farm boars may be kept in solitary confinement. When this is the case, the isolation and lack of mental stimulation in the way they are housed leads to boredom and frustration in these highly social, intelligent animals. Others are kept in pens with other boars. Deprived of stimulation and being so closely confined, boars may become aggressive and fight when housed together. The Code of Welfare allows for up to 15% of boars to suffer skin lesions, bites and scratches at any one time from fighting.
Many New Zealand farmers use artificial insemination of their sows, buying the boar semen from commercial providers. According to the Pig Improvement Company, the main provider of pig semen, about 65 per cent of pig farmers use artificial insemination. The boars used for breeding may be trained to mount dummy sows and their semen repeatedly collected.
This commercial semen is promoted to farmers as being of higher quality, and is one of the reasons that the boars kept on farms are sometimes just used as “teasers” to detect oestrus, (the sow’s fertile time), and encourage the sows to be ready to be inseminated.
Boars may have their tusks trimmed in an effort to reduce injury to other pigs and stockpersons. The Code of Welfare recommends that a vet undertakes all invasive procedures for boars over seven days of age. However tusk trimming of adult boars done with a surgical wire by a “trained individual” is acceptable behaviour on farms falling under NZ Pork’s Pigcare label. This is but one example of how meaningless the Welfare Approved standard of labelling really is.
If the pulp chamber of the tusk is exposed, as it may well be, it leaves the boar at risk of gingivitis (gum inflammation). In a 2008 overseas study of tusk trimming, the pulp chamber was exposed about half the time and almost half of the 102 tusks examined had moderate to severe gum inflammation.
Lifespan of Boars
Boars used for breeding are usually selected at around three–eight months of age, with the remainder going for slaughter. Of the boars that are selected for breeding, it is estimated that they will be used for 25 to 28 months before slaughter; this for an animal with a natural lifespan of around 15 years.