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06-06-2012 | Veterinary medicine | Article

Rubber-ring plus tissue removal preferred for calf castration


Free abstract

MedWire News: Applying one rubber ring to the scrotum and then removing the ring and the dead scrotal tissue (Rcut) after 9 days should be the preferred method to castrate 4-6 week-old calves, according to research published in The Veterinary Journal.

From a welfare perspective, this method is a viable alternative to traditional rubber-ring castration (RR), which is a "simple, inexpensive and effective method" but results in "considerable long-term pain," say the researchers.

Rcut not only reduced pain, but also reduced healing time compared with RR, a combination of rubber ring plus Burdizzo clamp use (BRR), and three rubber rings placed at the scrotum neck (RRR), report Adrian Steiner (University of Berne, Switzerland) and colleagues.

"This is a straightforward method that requires little equipment, is successful and is easy for laypersons to carry out, and should be considered as a means for increasing the well-being and health of bull calves for which castration can be justified," they add.

Comparison of the four castration methods plus a sham castration (control), in 53 calves showed that BRR caused the most pain at the point of castration. Thirty-six percent of BRR-treated calves scored 3, on a pain scale of 0-3; displaying defensive movements involving the entire body.

Steiner et al noted no significant differences in behaviors or postures indicating pain between calves castrated by RR (where the rubber ring is removed on day 9) and Rcut.

Conversely, between day 11 and week 12 of the study, RRR calves, with three rubber bands placed proximally at the scrotal neck, licked the scrotal area significantly more than any other group, indicating pain.

The most severe swelling proximal to the rubber ring site also occurred in this group, with a mean increase in diameter of 3.5 cm, compared with 1.95 cm in the RR group, 1.5 cm in the BRR group, and 0.5 cm in the Rcut group.

Outcomes of RRR castration highlighted "the importance of animal welfare criteria and the continuous evaluation of results," believe the study authors, who discontinued this method before the end of the study.

Finally, the Rcut method resulted in a significantly shorter healing time compared with the rest of the castration groups, at 49 days, versus 70 days for the RR and RRR groups, and 57 days in the BRR group.

By Sarah Guy