Welfare outcomes of calves of two ages castrated by elastrator rings

The Welfare outcomes of calves of two ages castrated by elastrator rings project investigated the welfare outcomes of calves castrated by either elastrator rings or by surgery under northern Australian conditions.


The current Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cattle states that rings should not be used for castrating calves older than 2 weeks age, although anecdotal reports suggest ring castration occurs in cattle up to 10 or more months of age in northern Australia. This study examined the welfare outcomes of 60, 3- and 6-month-old Belmont Red calves surgically, ring or sham castrated in central Queensland in late February 2012.

There were few differences with age, but behavioural responses suggested greater pain in the surgical than ring castrates during the first few days post-castration. Thereafter, wound inflammation steadily declined and healing proceeded in the surgical castrates, but inflammation increased in the ring castrates to 2 weeks post-castration before declining at week 3.

Behavioural responses of the ring castrates indicated that they were in pain during this latter period and there was evidence of delayed wound healing, particularly in the 6-month-old calves. Responses observed here and reported in the literature indicate that castration is painful. Therefore to improve calf welfare, pain relief should be provided for castration and, given the timing of inflammatory pain, this is more likely to be most practical and cost-effective, with less handling stress, for surgical castration, although efficacy requires testing.

When: 1 February 2012 to 14 December 2012

Contact: Dr Carol Petherick

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

More information

To learn more, please read the final report summary and download the final report (B.AWW.0008) (PDF, 1.5 MB) published by Meat & Livestock Australia.