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Calf Castration Methods

What to use and what to believe?

Brett Littler, Livestock Officer
September 2014

I have been asked of late about different castration methods and the pros and cons of each. There have been some advertisements of new methods that talk about the benefits of castrating calves later and thought that I would go through the pros and cons of both.

Elastic bands and Banding with latex-bands

The Elastic bands have been around for a while and recommended to be used on calves under 3 weeks of age however they are used on cattle that are older than this. The newer kid on the block is the use of Banders (latex-bands). Part of the sales pitch with this method is that you can do your calves later and take advantage of testosterone and the growth associated with this. Under the animal codes practice it is illegal to castrate an animal in excess of 6 months of age. All scientific research that I have looked into in the use of banding has shown that there is lower weight gain when latex-banding is used in comparison to surgical castration.

Advantages and Disadvantages:

  • bloodless, easy to perform 
  • large lesions may form above the band site and persist for long times
  • wounds heal more slowly than those from surgical castration 
  • potential for missed testicles 
  • band may break or band may not disrupt all circulation to the testicles 
  • preferred for castrating at a wet, muddy conditions
  • infections, including tetanus and blackleg, may warrant vaccination prior to banding 
  • public concern about pain and animal welfare associated with banding older calves 
  • lower weight gains following latex-band castration compared to surgical castration 
  • EZE and Callicrate methods without anaesthesia for older bulls deemed inhumane and unethical 
Burdizzo 

Burdizzo can be an unreliable method in the hands of non skilled producers. I have in my time had to go out and do some fix up jobs where this has happened.

Advantages and disadvantages: 

  • bloodless
  • slow to perform and requires expertise
  • unreliable when done incorrectly, leads to stags 
  • equipment becomes ineffective after long-term use and must be replaced 
  • less reduction in weight gain after castration compared to latex-band 
Surgical castration

Surgical castration has a very short pain response (4-10 days). There is a decrease in average daily gain during this time, but overall there is very little affect on weight gain. Surgical castration should always be done with a sterile sharp knife or scalpel.

Advantages and disadvantages:

  • not bloodless, bleeding is a risk 
  • sure castration because the testicles are removed 
  • risk of infections because of open wounds 
  • not recommended for castrating bull calves at a feedlot with wet, muddy conditions 
  • greater reduction in weight gain after castration compared to Burdizzo 
  • surgical wounds heal more quickly than those from rubber ring
For more information
Brett Littler, Livestock Officer, Central Tablelands LLS
Phone: 0427 007 398
Email: brett.littler@lls.nsw.gov.au