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Pain management in castrated beef cattle

Project start date: 20 June 2010
Project end date: 10 September 2012
Publication date: 01 November 2011
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
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Tension-bander castration is promoted as producing superior welfare and production outcomes compared to other castration methods, particularly for older bulls. The welfare outcomes for weaner and mature Bos indicus bulls castrated by tension-bander or surgery with and without analgesia (ketoprofen administered at castration) were investigated. Behavioural changes indicated that the banded bulls of both ages experienced greater pain than the surgical castrates immediately post-castration. Ketoprofen alleviated the pain, although it took time (about 1 hr) to take effect. 
Cortisol concentrations showed that both castration methods caused pain and stress and ketoprofen reduced cortisol only in the surgically castrated, mature bulls. Inflammation (scrotal swelling and haptoglobin) was initially greater in the surgical castrates, but it increased and remained high, to 4 weeks post-castration, in the banded bulls. Mature bulls had elevated cortisol concentrations at 2-4 weeks post-castration indicating inflammatory pain. Wounds were slower to heal in the banded than surgical castrates; all treatments had healed by 2 months post-castration. Liveweight changes were generally unaffected by treatment, although ketoprofen-treated, mature bulls had lower average liveweights over 3 months compared to those given saline. These results show that tension-banding castration produces inferior welfare outcomes to surgical castration for both weaner and mature bulls.

More information

Project manager: Jim Rothwell
Primary researcher: Department of Economic Development &I