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Assessment of pain responses associated with castration of 10-week old lambs using the Callicrate ‘Wee Bander’ compared to a standard elastrator

Project start date: 01 October 2013
Project end date: 25 June 2014
Publication date: 01 June 2014
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb, Grassfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
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Castration of ram lambs is a standard procedure to facilitate animal management. Ring castration is the most common method of castration of ram lambs, and is considered less painful than surgical castration. However, ring castration still results in acute pain for at least 2 hours after castration. An alternative method of ring castration uses rings that can be adjusted so that a very tight ring can be applied to even small animals. A tighter ring is thought to result in less pain and therefore would provide a more welfare friendly alternative. This project aims to investigate if castration of lambs using the Callicrate WEE Bander results in reduced pain compared to castration using the Elastrator. A total of 60 lambs were housed in10 pens with 6 lambs per pen and within each pen three treatments were randomly allocated to two of the lambs (randomised block design with pens as blocks and lambs as experimental units).The following three treatments were imposed on lambs (20 per treatment) as follows: 
1. Castrated using a traditional elastrator (Elastrator) - a traditional elastrator (similar to The Original Elastrator Ring Applicator, Heiniger), with the use of the Original antiseptic latex rings (green); 
 2. Callicrate WEE Bander (WEE Bander) - Callicrate WEE Bander, with the use of Callicrate Wee loops (; and 
​ 3. Sham castration treatment (Control) - held by a person in a similar manner to the first two treatments without no castration. 

Continuous behaviour observation from the digital video records took place for 2 h after treatment and behaviour indicative of pain was recorded. In addition, instantaneous sampling at 10-min intervals was used 2 to 5 h after treatment and from 0800 to 1600 h on day 2, 3, 6, 9, 13, 20 and 27 to record changes in postures and behaviours. Blood samples were taken immediately prior to treatment and at 30, 60, 120, 180 and 240 min after treatment. 
Additional blood samples were taken at day 2, 7 and 14 at 1230 h. The blood samples were analysed for cortisol (all samples) and haptoglobin (pre-treatment and days 2, 7 and 14 only). Lambs were weighed prior to treatment, daily in the first week and weekly thereafter at 1000 h. While walking to and from the scales, the gait of the animals was scored for any abnormality. The lesion around the castration-ring area was also scored at the time of weighing. Data was analysed for treatment effects as an analysis of variance by Anova. In comparison with the Control treatment, both castration treatments clearly affected behaviour in the first 2 h after castration, with most of the recorded behaviours affected (P0.05) differences in behaviour were seen between the two castration treatments. 
​Behaviour was also affected by treatment in the period of 2 to 5 h after treatment (P0.05) between treatments on days 2 and 3. The castration treatments increased (P0.05) in weight gain over the whole observation period. From day 14 after treatment, both castration treatments resulted in greater (P0.05). The behavioural and physiological results of the present experiment indicate that the Wee Bander does not reduce pain associated with ring castration in 10- to 11-week-old lambs and may possibly be more painful early after castration than traditional Elastrator rings.

More information

Project manager: Jim Rothwell
Primary researcher: University of Melbourne