Swine Cluster 1

Use of non-penetrating captive bolt for euthanasia of neonate, 

suckling and weaned piglets up to 9 kg 

Project leaders

  • Tina Widowski, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario 
  • Suzanne Millman, Iowa State University, Iowa, USA   

Project objective 

Investigate the effectiveness of the modified design of the non-penetrating captive bolt for euthanasia of neonatal piglets as well 

as older piglets.


Summary of the project

The project aim is to determine the maximum weight of suckling pigs that the Zephyr non-penetrating captive bolt effectively induces rapid loss of consciousness, determine the maximum weight of suckling pigs that the Zephyr non-penetrating captive bolt effectively achieves death quickly and consistently and develop restraint techniques that support use of the Zephyr for piglets up 9 kg.   

Significant achievements

To date, two of the three trials were completed.  

Trial 1: Test the effectiveness of the NPCB (non-penetrating captive bolt) on 100 suckling piglets that were less than 3 days of age.  

Trial 2: Test the degree of brain lesions and time to death following application of the NPCB for on a total of 20 anethetized piglets (5 for each of the 4 weight classes). In both trials, the degree of brain damage was determined by macroscopic scoring of damage at gross necropsy, microscopic scoring of sectioned and stained samples of brain tissue and by CT scans performed by a veterinary pathologist and radiologist, respectively. In trial 1 data collected from live observations following application of the device by 10 stock people (10 piglets each) across four (4) different farms indicated that the NPCB was 100% effective at causing rapid insensibility and 95% effective at causing cardiac arrest within minutes. Post-mortem data from trial 2 confirm that continuation onto the next stage of the project is warranted. The next stage of research will focus on testing the effectiveness of the NPCB on conscious piglets (up to 9 kg).



Associated documents


Euthanasia Alternatives - Newsletter August 2012 

New Device Eases Stress of Euthanasia

Research Confirms Effectiveness of Zephyr


Farmscape interview: December 2012 - Zephyr Gun Shown as Effective Alternative for Euthanizing Piglets


Farmscape interview: January 2013 - New Euthanasia Device for Piglets Now Commercially Available