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Journal of Animal Science Abstract - Animal Health and Well Being

Effect of band and knife castration of beef calves on welfare indicators of pain at three relevant industry ages: II. Chronic pain1


This article in JAS

    Received: May 26, 2017
    Accepted: Aug 07, 2017
    Published: September 7, 2017

    2 Corresponding author(s):

  1. S. Marti*†,
  2. D. M. Meléndez*†,
  3. E. A. Pajor*,
  4. D. Moya†‡,
  5. C. E. M. Heuston,
  6. D. Gellatly*†,
  7. E. D. Janzen* and
  8. K. S. Schwartzkopf-Genswein 2
  1. * University of Calgary, Dept of Production Animal Health, Calgary, AB T2N 4N1, Canada
     Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lethbridge Research Centre, Lethbridge, AB T1J 4B1, Canada
     Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth SY23 3DB, UK


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.

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