Castrating Calves Early Is Least StressfulBy
August 31, 1998
Sooner is better when it comes to castrating beef calves. Scientists at the
Agricultural Research Service found that
calves castrated at birth suffered less stress and recovered faster than those
castrated at weaning time 9 months later.
Castration is done to reduce aggressive behavior in male animals. It may
also improve the taste and texture of beef. Meat from uncastrated cattle can be
tougher and may carry an unpleasant odor.
Morrow-Tesch and colleagues at ARS'
Livestock Behavior Research
Unit in West Lafayette, Ind., studied castration to gauge the stress level
in beef calves that undergo it. The research aims at reducing livestock stress
through a better understanding of how castration as well as other management
practices affect animal behavior.
The researchers used two different castration methods--surgical and "banding."
In banding, a tight rubber band placed around the animal's scrotum cuts off
blood flow to the testicles. After several days, the scrotum withers and sloughs
off. Cattle producers prefer this method because it's cheaper and easier than
surgically removing the testicles.
The scientists compared stress levels of groups of animals castrated by
either technique at birth, 33 weeks of age (about 3 weeks before weaning) or 36
weeks. All were compared against a control group of calves that were not
The researchers measured stress levels by checking the calves' blood levels
of haptaglobin, a protein the liver makes when an animal is injured. In
castrated calves, haptaglobin was lowest in those castrated at birth and highest
in those castrated at weaning. In addition, banded calves generally showed lower
levels of haptaglobin, meaning this method was less stressful than surgical
The August issue of Agricultural Research magazine has a story about
the research. The story is also on the World Wide Web at:
ARS is the chief scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contact: Julie Morrow-Tesch, ARS Livestock Behavior
Research Unit, Poultry Science Bldg, Room 218, Purdue University, West
Lafayette, IN 47907, phone (765) 494-8022, fax (765) 496- 1993,email@example.com.