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

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

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Three experiments were conducted to evaluate the effects of band and knife castration on behavioral and physiological indicators of chronic pain in beef calves at 3 different ages (36 calves/age group): 1 wk of age (Exp. 1, 4 ± 1.1 d of age, 43 ± 1.1 kg BW), 2 mo of age (Exp. 2, 63 ± 2.3 d of age, 92 ± 1.7 kg BW), and 4 mo of age (Exp. 3, 125 ± 4.6 d of age, 160 ± 3.4 kg BW). In each experiment calves were randomly assigned to either sham (CT), band (BA) or knife (KN) castration. Experiments 1, 2, and 3 ended when the testicles of banded calves had sloughed off (68, 49, and 42 d, respectively). Animal BW and rectal temperature were recorded weekly over the experimental period. Salivary cortisol, substance P, haptoglobin, scrotal area temperature using infrared thermography, visual evaluation of swelling (5-point scale), and gait stride length were collected on d −1 and immediately before castration and weekly thereafter until the end of the study. Hair samples were collected 1 d prior to and 28 d after castration and at the end of the study for cortisol concentration. Standing and lying behaviors were recorded over a 28-d period immediately after castration. No differences (P > 0.10) were observed in salivary cortisol, substance P, haptoglobin, or hair cortisol among castration methods for any of the 3 ages. No changes in behavior were observed in calves castrated at 1 wk or 2 mo of age. In 4 mo-old-calves, BA spent less time lying (P < 0.01) than CT and KN calves. Also, the average duration of lying time for BA calves was greater (P < 0.05) than for CT calves. Both, 1-wk- and 2-mo-old calves had inflammation in the scrotal area lasting 7 d after KN castration, whereas inflammation was observed for up to 14 d in 4-mo-old calves. Swelling in BA calves lasted for 21 to 28 d in the 2 younger groups of calves, whereas in 4-mo-old calves swelling was observed until d 35 postcastration. Knife- and band-castrated calves did not exhibit indicators of chronic pain or distress when the procedures were performed in calves younger than 2 mo of age. Therefore, pain mitigation should be used when castrating to improve animal welfare, especially when castrations are performed in calves older than 2 mo of age independent of the method of castration
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4367-4380
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2017


  • beef
  • behavior
  • castration
  • chronic pain
  • physiology


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