Castrating and spaying

Castrating and spaying are important husbandry techniques to prevent unwanted breeding in livestock.

Castration is a regular part of cattle, sheep and goat husbandry in Australia. Spaying is a largely restricted to cattle in northern Australia in situations where control of bulls is difficult.

Best practice procedure for castration and spaying

Castration and spaying are both surgical procedures and care needs to be taken to ensure the best outcome.

To help ensure best practice, producers should pay attention to the following:

  • Reduce stress before, during and after the procedure by:
    • Good planning and preparation.
    • Having adequate numbers of well-trained staff to do the job.
    • Using well-maintained equipment.
    • Using low stress stock handling.
    • Reducing the time calves, lambs and kids are separated from their mothers.
    • Releasing animals from the yards as quickly as possible into a well-shaded holding paddock with fodder and water available.
    • Avoiding immediately walking or moving animals over large distances to paddocks.
  • Minimising dehydration by avoiding hot weather. Allow animals to rest in the yards after mustering and providing fresh water between mustering and the procedure. Minimise the time animals are off water and perform the procedures in the coolest part of the day.
  • Minimising bleeding by using good technique and taking steps to ensure livestock are not hot at the time of the procedure. Always allow animals to settle and cool after yarding, handle them calmly and perform the procedures in the coolest part of the day.
  • Reducing the risk of infection through strict attention to hygiene. Minimise dust in the work area, provide adequate protection against tetanus and ensure open wounds can drain.

Castration

As well as reducing unwanted breeding, which allows greater control over genetic gains through selective mating, castration also results in male animals that are:

  • Less aggressive and less likely to fight - reducing bruising, injuries and damage to farm infrastructure.
  • Easier and safer to handle.
  • Easier to keep in paddocks after the time that sexual maturity would be reached.

Castration may not be required in some instances eg calves, lambs and kids turned off at a young age. Other markets require male livestock to be castrated.

Calves, lambs and kids should be as young as possible at the time of castration. Castration is illegal in some states in calves more than six months of age unless performed by a veterinarian. Producers need to be aware of the legal requirements in their State.

Information on best practice for castrating calves is available in MLA's publication: A guide to best practice husbandry in beef cattle; branding, castration and dehorning. Additional information on castrating calves is available in the New South Wales Department of Industry & Investment publication Castrating calves.

Information on best practice for castrating lambs is available in Sheep husbandry practises guide.

Spaying

Spaying is a skilled technique and people performing the procedure must be registered veterinary surgeons or adequately trained and accredited as permitted by state and territory legislation.

The Willis dropped ovary technique is preferred because:

  • It is less stressful for animals than other techniques.
  • Mortalities are fewer.
  • It is faster than other techniques.
  • The recovery period is usually shorter.
  • It can be done in a standard crush.
  • There is no hide or carcase damage.

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