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Effects of two methods of castration on the growth and intake of dairy calves.

E. Nogues




Effects of two methods of castration on the growth and intake of dairy calves.
E. Nogues*, M. A. G. von Keyserlingk, D. M. Weary. Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Dairy bull calves kept for beef production are usually castrated to reduce aggression, mounting behaviors, and to improve meat quality. Two common methods of castration are surgery (resulting in complete removal of the testes) and application of a rubber ring (causing constriction of the blood flow, leading to tissue death and eventual slough off). The aim of this study was to assess and compare wound healing, BW and feed intake over 8 weeks following both methods. Holstein bull calves (n = 22) were enrolled and randomly assigned to treatment. All calves were castrated at 28 (�1) days old, and always with multi-modal pain mitigation (including the use of a sedative, local anesthetic and NSAID). Feed intake and BW were recorded for 3 d before and after castration, and once weekly thereafter for 8 wks. Wound condition was evaluated the day after castration, and weekly thereafter for 8 wks. Wounds of surgically castrated calves healed 28 (�6) days after the procedure (i.e., incision no longer visible); in contrast, the necrotic tissues of the rubber ring calves sloughed off 50 (�9) days after the ring was applied, and the wound was not fully healed in the 2 weeks following slough off. Eight weeks after castration, surgically castrated calves had gained 51.1 (�11.5) kg versus 40.2 (�13.6) kg for those with a rubber ring (P = 0.019). Average daily milk intake of all calves in each treatment was calculated, and 2 linear models were built: no significant difference was found between treatments (P = 0.057). Similarly, quadratic models were built for grain intakes in both treatments, and ANOVA was carried out: there was a significant difference between treatments (P < 0.001). Calves assigned to the rubber ring treatment consumed less grain than surgically castrated calves over the 8-wk period. These results indicate that calves recover more rapidly after surgical castration, as evidenced by improved wound healing, BW gain and feed intake in the weeks following the procedure.

Keywords: post-operative pain, banding, growth.