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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Weeman

Castration Guidelines

Regardless of the species, it is important that castration is performed humanely and correctly in a way to minimizes discomfort and pain to the animal, regardless of the herd management preferences or systems. It is possible to apply techniques for the humane provision of this procedure that conform to the needs of any management system

Castration is a necessary procedure to enhance reproductive performance and selectivity within a herd. The goals of many producers vary, and therefore individualized guidelines may be required to supplement the following recommendations.

Castration should generally be performed at the youngest possible age for cattle and pigs; generally prior to 4 months of age. Those producers wishing to castrate at larger ages should bear in mind the cost, production losses at the time of castration and the amount of distress the animal endures all increase.

Both surgical, and band dehorning are acceptable methods.

Sheep and Goats should be castrated AFTER 6 months of age. Generally they can breed prior to this age, so they must be separated from females. Additionally, they will start to "stink". The smell comes from the testosterone surge and will go away following castration. That same smelly testosterone surge is what helps reduce the development of urethral obstructions by helping the penis to enlarge prior to castration.

Tetanus protection is advised when applying either the banding or surgical technique. A dose of tetanus toxoid followed 3 weeks later by a second dose of tetanus toxoid at the time of castration is sufficient. Administration of tetanus toxoid results in a sustained immunity to tetanus. If vaccinating prior to castration is not possible, producers are advised to administer a dose of antitoxin at the time of castration. Administration of tetanus antitoxin results in a short duration of protection and should not be considered vaccination.

Giving one dose of toxoid at the time of castration is inadequate to confer any protection. Tetanus is rare, when it occurs, it is deadly. Preventing it is worth the effort.

There is no scientific evidence to support the efficacy of administering tetanus toxoid and tetanus antitoxin at the same time. Although this theory has also not been proven, it's actually possible simultaneous administration of a toxoid and antitoxin product could put the animal at greater risk by reducing the protective benefits from both.

A local lidocaine block should be applied when castrating animals under 4 months of age. A lidocaine block MUST be applied when castrating animals over 4 months of age. Your veterinarian is happy to show you how to perform this procedure.

Surgical removal of the testicle should only be performed by a veterinarian.

Banding of testicles should be performed by individuals who are confident in their ability to secure both testicles beneath the band. Complications arise when the band allows a testicle to rise through the band, resulting in incomplete castration of the animal.

Another common application mistake is placing a tension band too loose. Doing so will cause added discomfort and infection risk to the patient. Sometimes the testicles will swell so badly it will require revision surgery. This mistake is entirely avoidable by ensuring the application is performed correctly, we encourage everyone to contact us to have the procedure performed correctly the first time.

Animals being castrated experience pain. Banding is generally considered to produce longer pain responses (days) than surgical castration. Every animal should be administered pain medications the day of the procedure. Our veterinarian will always administer pain medications because it is in accordance with best practices and because it is the right thing to do. The administration of pain medication to animals following castration has a negligible impact on cost. In fact, research suggests rates of gain are protected and probably completely compensate for any cost of providing pain medication. Every animal should be administered pain medications the day of the procedure. Animals under 4 months of age should be given systemic pain medications for 3 to 4 days following application of the band. Animals over 4 months of age should not be banded without long-term pain therapy being administered.

Animals being castrated should be appropriately restrained: chemical restraint, halters, headlocks and squeeze chutes are appropriate. Older animals that cannot be safely secured within an open sided chute may require chemical restraint to safely perform the procedure. Solid walled chutes make surgical removal of the testicle as well as banding more dangerous to perform

The best choice between which method of castration to utilize generally is made by individually assessing the patient and consulting with your veterinarian on the best plan, which may change based on a number of factors including: the animal, the operation, the season etc. While castration is a routine procedure, complications may arise and only qualified individuals, like a licensed veterinarian, should perform the procedure.

AABP Castration Guidelines
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