The present study addresses the questions whether on-farm use of local anaesthesia with lidocaine leads to a reduction in pain responses during castration, and whether the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug meloxicam improves technical performance after castration of piglets. Five treatments were included in the study: (1) castration without anaesthesia or analgesia (CAST), (2) castration after local anaesthesia with lidocaine (LIDO), (3) castration after administration of meloxicam (MELO), (4) castration after lidocaine and meloxicam (L + M) and (5) sham castration (SHAM). To reduce litter influences, each treatment was present in each of the 32 litters (n = 32 per treatment). During castration, vocalizations were recorded continuously. Blood samples were collected 15 min before and 20 min after castration for determination of plasma levels of total cortisol, glucose, lactate and creatine kinase (CK). Mortality was registered and piglets were weighed several times to calculate growth. Several aspects of vocalizations during castration showed consistent and significantly different levels in CAST compared with LIDO, L + M and SHAM. CAST piglets squealed longer, louder and higher. Vocalizations of MELO piglets most resembled those of CAST. An increase in cortisol was seen in all treatments. However, in SHAM piglets this increase was significantly lower than in the other treatments. LIDO piglets showed a significantly smaller increase in plasma cortisol levels compared with CAST and MELO. L + M piglets differed significantly only from the SHAM group. Lactate levels differed significantly between LIDO and MELO, the level in LIDO being decreased after castration. In the other treatments an increase was measured. No treatment effects were found in plasma glucose and CK levels, nor in growth and mortality of the piglets. In conclusion, on the basis of vocalizations and plasma cortisol, local anaesthesia with lidocaine reduces pain responses in piglets during castration. A positive effect of meloxicam on technical performance was not found
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