Surgical castration of young female pigs is common practice in Chinese pig farming today. The purpose of the present study is to investigate anti-GnRH immunization as a practical alternative to surgical castration for female pigs. Thirty-six Chinese female crossbred pigs (Chinese YananxYorkshire) were selected from 12 litters, three pigs from each litter, at the age of 10-13 weeks. One pig from each litter was immunized with 62.5g d-Lys6-GnRH-tandem-dimer peptide conjugated to ovalbumin in Specol adjuvant at Week 0 (0 week post-vaccination, wpv), and a booster vaccination was given 8 weeks later (8 wpv). Its intact and castrate littermates (surgically castrated at the time of weaning, i.e. at 6 weeks of age) were administered the vehicle and served as controls. Antibody titers, serum LH and inhibin A were determined at the day of first vaccination, every 4 weeks thereafter and at the day of slaughter (18 wpv). At slaughter, ovaries were inspected for the presence of follicles and corpora lutea, and ovarian and uterine weights were recorded. Ten of twelve immunized pigs responded well to the immunization (immunocastrated animals), while the remaining two pigs responded poorly (nonresponders). Antibody titres in immunocastrated animals steadily increased after immunization, became maximal at 12 wpv and remained high until slaughter. Serum LH levels were reduced (P<0.05) in immunocastrated pigs as compared to intact controls and surgical castrates. Serum inhibin A levels decreased after vaccination, and equaled surgical castrate levels from 8 wpv until the end of the experiment. Ovarian and uterine weights (1.3+/-0.2 and 43.9+/-11.4g, respectively; mean+/-S.E.M.) were significantly lower (P<0.05) in immunocastrates than in intact controls (9.4+/-1.1 and 390.9+/-67.2g, respectively). Antibody titers were significantly lower (P<0.05) in nonresponders than in immunocastrated pigs from 12 wpv to slaughter. Ovarian and uterine weights were similar in nonresponders and in intact controls. Macroscopically, no follicular structures were found in ovaries of immunocastrated pigs, while large follicles or corpora lutea were observed in the ovaries of both nonresponders and intact controls. Although not significant, immunocastrates had a numerically higher average daily gain than surgical castrates and intact controls (0.74+/-0.04 versus 0.66+/-0.04 versus 0.66+/-0.03kg per day, respectively; mean+/-S.E.M., P=0.09). Results obtained in the present study demonstrate that anti-GnRH immunization can be an attractive alternative to surgical castration for Chinese crossbred female pigs. Our results also question the beneficial effect of surgical castration on growth as compared to intact controls.