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Marking calves

Brett Littler – Senior Land Services Officer (Livestock)

In the last month I have been asked by a few producers about the pros and cons of different methods of castration of cattle and in particular the use of ‘Banders’ on older cattle.

The use of tension-banded castration over conventional surgical castration is being promoted as “producing superior welfare and production outcomes compared to other castration methods, particularly for older bulls,”

If we look at the literature and the studies that now have been done it shows that this is perception, not fact. What the research clearly shows is that there are some serious welfare concerns when using the banders over surgical castration and that there is more pain for longer and also banders have a wound for longer.

In NSW, it is illegal for producers to castrate an animal in excess of 6 months of age.

Nigel Gillan – District Vet
Castration of male calves is a routine practice for most beef producers, so it’s worth considering how to reduce potential welfare impacts and disease risks.

I have seen cases of tetanus in unvaccinated cattle and sheep following castration with elastic rings or bands.  Treatment of tetanus is difficult, so prevention is key, and fortunately a vaccine is available.  It’s wise to administer a clostridial vaccine (such as “5-in-1”) to all calves – two doses several weeks apart are required to provide full immunity.  Talk to your District Vet about the best vaccination protocol in your herd.

This year, a new product has been registered for pain relief in surgically castrated calves.  ILIUM® Buccalgesic OTM is a gel that is applied to the lining of the mouth (in the gap between the teeth/gums and cheek). The drug is absorbed very effectively across this surface and enters the blood-stream, providing pain relief if administered prior to castration.