Effect of band and knife castration of beef calves on welfare indicators of pain at three relevant industry ages: I. Acute pain

D. M. Meléndez, S. Marti, E. A. Pajor, Diego Moya Fernandez, C. E. M. Heuston, D. Gellatly, E. D. Janzen, K. S. Schwartzkopf-Genswein

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21 Citations (SciVal)


Three experiments evaluated the effect of band and knife castration on acute pain for the first 7 d after the procedure on 1-wk-, 2-mo-, and 4-mo-old calves. All calves were blocked by age and weight and randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatments: sham castration (control, CT), band castration (BA), and knife castration (KN). Experiment 1 evaluated 1-wk-old Angus bull calves (n = 34; 43.0 ± 6.61 kg BW), Exp. 2 evaluated 2-mo-old Angus bull calves (n = 34; 91.5 ± 11.93 kg BW), and Exp. 3 evaluated 4-mo-old Angus bull calves (n = 35; 157.6 ± 22.52 kg BW). For all experiments, physiological and behavioral parameters were collected before (d −1 and immediately before castration [T0]) and after (60 and 120 min and on d 7) castration to assess acute pain. Physiological measures included complete blood cell count, cortisol, substance P, and scrotal temperature. Behavioral measures consisted of a visual analog scale, stride length, and time and frequency budgets for walking, standing, lying, tail flicking, foot stamping, and head turning. Performance parameters included initial and final BW and ADG. In Exp. 1, tail flicking was greater (P = 0.02) in KN calves compared to BA calves 2 to 4 h after castration, although no differences were seen between BA and KN compared to CT calves. In Exp. 2, a treatment × time interaction (P = 0.02) was observed for cortisol, where KN calves had greater cortisol concentrations 120 min after castration compared to BA and CT calves; KN calves also lay down and ate less (P < 0.01; P = 0.02) and stood and walked more (P < 0.01; P = 0.05) compared to BA and CT calves 2 to 4 h after castration. In Exp. 3, a treatment × time interaction (P < 0.01) was observed for cortisol concentrations in which all treatments were different from one another at 60 and 120 min, with BA calves having the greatest concentrations, KN calves being intermediate, and CT having the lowest concentrations. Overall, KN and BA castrated calves presented physiological and behavioral changes associated with acute pain; however, 2-mo-old BA calves presented the fewest behavioral changes and no physiological changes associated with acute pain compared to CT calves
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4352-4366
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2017


  • acute pain
  • beef
  • behaviour
  • castration
  • physiology


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