Pain management in castrated beef cattle

The Pain management in castrated beef cattle project investigated welfare outcomes for weaner and mature Bos indicus bulls castrated by tension-banding or surgery.


Tension-bander castration is promoted as producing superior welfare and production outcomes compared to other castration methods, particularly for older bulls. The welfare outcomes for weaner and mature Bos indicus bulls castrated by tension-bander or surgery with and without analgesia (ketoprofen administered at castration) were investigated. Behavioural changes indicated that the banded bulls of both ages experienced greater pain than the surgical castrates immediately post-castration. Ketoprofen alleviated the pain, although it took time (about 1 hr) to take effect.

Cortisol concentrations showed that both castration methods caused pain and stress and ketoprofen reduced cortisol only in the surgically castrated, mature bulls. Inflammation (scrotal swelling and haptoglobin) was initially greater in the surgical castrates, but it increased and remained high, to 4 weeks post-castration, in the banded bulls. Mature bulls had elevated cortisol concentrations at 2-4 weeks post-castration indicating inflammatory pain. Wounds were slower to heal in the banded than surgical castrates; all treatments had healed by 2 months post-castration. Liveweight changes were generally unaffected by treatment, although ketoprofen-treated, mature bulls had lower average liveweights over 3 months compared to those given saline.

These results show that tension-banding castration produces inferior welfare outcomes to surgical castration for both weaner and mature bulls.

When: 20 June 2010 to 10 September 2012

Contact: Dr Carol Petherick

Collaborators: CSIRO, University of Queensland and Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation

More information

For more information, please refer to the final report summary and download the final report (B.AWW.0206) (PDF, 1.4MB) published by Meat & Livestock Australia.