A detailed description of the husbandry practice of castration is the main purpose of this essay. It describes castration as a basic husbandry of beef production, as well as highlighting the cultural history of this practice and the basic concepts behind it. In addition, it highlights the biology behind castration, and then describes the expected impact of castration on growth and carcass composition. Furthermore, all other aspects such as feed efficiency, age, and method, as well as reasons behind castration, are covered in the essay. Finally, we will draw a conclusion from the description provided above, based on the information available in peer-reviewed journals.
Castration is a routine management practice that is performed on beef calves. Castration refers to a chemical, non-surgical or surgical amputation of testicles of male calves. A considerable number of producers agree to the argument that bull calves, not required for breeding, are castrated. The reasons that accompany the argument are the following: bull castration is recommended since castrated males are docile; they fatten faster: it ensures breeding selection and practice control of the spread of breeding diseases, such as brucellosis and virginities. Historically, castration was meant to tame animals for drought purposes. It is argued that oxen are drought resistant since they consume less food compared to intact bulls. In the contemporary society, castration is meant to decrease injuries, enhance safety in the farm for employees, producers and animals. It will also decrease fencing costs as well as cost of handling facilities, and at the same time producers seek to evade discounted price that is paid in the market for bulls. The other major reason for castrating male calves is as a respond to the market demands. It is evident that consumers prefer steer meat than bull meat. Castration is a management decision that seeks to respond to consumer preferences. Consumers demand for meat that is flavorful, palatable, and consistent, and as such, producers castrate their calves in response to the demand and preference of consumers. Besides, bulls are known for aggressive behavior as well as low meat quality.
There are different methods of castration that can be used by producers, such as surgical method, using burdizzo, or using a round rubber band. New Zealand and some countries in Europe use anesthesia to minimize the pain and stress that accompany the procedure. However, some producers do not castrate male calves that have superior genes, as well as physical characteristics, since they are used for breeding. The methods of castration selected should be those that give the calf fast relief and less stress (Anderson 62).
There is no specific or fixed time for calves’ castration, but it is advisable to do it before the calves reach puberty. The method utilized as well as the timing of castration vary from operation to operation, and as such there are factors that influence the timing of castration such as weather, producer marketing, availability of resources and philosophy of the producer. Some producer belief that delayed castration will lead to considerable weight gain during weaning compared to calves castrated just after birth. Others also see the profitability that they get when they market their calves at weaning, and as such weaning weight is essential. As a result, delayed castration is perceived as beneficial, however studies reveal that post-weaning castration is likely to trigger reduced performance as well as reduced health. Furthermore, post-weaning castration will also trigger a bigger stress response that castration done at or after birth. Bulls castrated at an older age are likely to face many hazards such as sickness or even death and a decline in productivity or live weight gains. As such, castration should be done when the male calves are still young that is, when they are two to three months old. At this time, they are immature and their hormones are not developed yet. In addition, when male calves are castrated while they are still located in a familiar environment with their nursing mother, there is minimal stress on the calf. For sure, the calf will have healthy appetite, unrelenting immune system, as well as undergoing less stress, and at the same time enjoying lifetime performance. There are also minimal chances for complications due to contamination or blood loss. Furthermore, when the producer engages in the supply of bulls that will be for future reproduction, it is of essence to delay the time for castration so as to give the bull sufficient time to grow, and distinctive characteristics can be identified that will be useful in future generations.
Physical castration is insidious though it is widely used in beef cattle. However, there are growing welfare concerns on how the side effects of the procedure can be minimized. Several studies have been conducted to address different issues of castration including the use of anesthesia or analgesics in order to play down castration-associated pain. Pain experienced during the castration process can be classified as either physiological or pathological. Physiological pain occurs during or after the husbandry practices, where pathological pain is from nerves or tissue damage that activates disinhibition, sensitization as well as structural reorganization within the fundamental nervous system.
Surgical castration involves the removal of testicles of a male calf by cutting the lower part of the scrotum using a surgical knife. There is a significant supply of blood in the organs, but sufficient care is administered in order to control bleeding. The operation is simple, immediate and quick, and healing process begins right away after the operation. However, the cut results into an open wound that maybe infected or contaminated easily. In addition, calves will undergo a painful experience from the exercise as well as blood loss, which may result to either death or weakness. The procedure maybe also risky for a surgeon because he/she uses surgical knifes that are sharp, and as such, the surgeon should ensure safety.
The other method of castration is using round rubber band. The rubber band will restrict blood flow because it is placed on top of the scrotum and it constricts the blood vessels killing all the tissues beneath the rubber band, this will lead to the tissues fall off at last. When the procedure is used calves do not loss any blood, the procedure is safe, and there are minimal chances for infection. The procedure has a number of disadvantages such as a short-term pain, and persistent irritation at the top of the rubber band. It is also evident that when the rubber bands are fixed, a calf is likely to experience decreased feeding, walking and weight gains due to irritation. The healing time varies with bigger bulls taking a maximum of six weeks. It is imperative to note that banded calves are more vulnerable to tetanus infections. Castration leads to sexual neutralization and androgen hormone effect reduction and as such it leads to a decrease in live weight and a transitional morphological type. The calves have lower development of body muscles since castration affects secondary sexual traits (Thuer 45).
In the United States, the beef industry is in the process of initiating programs that seek to reduce production of excess fat, improve product consistency as well as recognize and recompense individual producers for outstanding performance in the feedlot. Feeding animals is a costly activity in animal production, and as such, it is essential to ensure feed efficiency. In a grazing system, it is difficult to quantify the cost of feed since it includes cost of purchasing land, irrigation, labor, pasture improvement, plant and machinery, as well as supplementary feed. Historically, and as at present, beef producers have strived to improve the breed assortment for growth. This has resulted into an improvement in growth rate. Beef cattle production requires an approximately 65-85% feed intake in order to ensure increased growth and efficient beef production. Castration will boost feed efficiency because it will lead to a reduction in extra reproductive requirements that bulls normally incur.
In the United States, steers are preferred in the market place, instead of intact bull. This is attributed to their ability to fit comfortably into the up to date beef production system, and at the same time produce carcass that is most desired by the consumers. Surely, there is variation in the rate of growth and meat yield among bulls and steers. Intact bulls have a higher growth rate because of feeding efficiency and larger red meat yield than steers, but their aggressive behavior coupled with inferior carcass quality necessitate castration of male calves before weaning. Bulls grow faster than castrated ones because of testosterone, the male sex hormone that is responsible for making bulls grow physically larger and behave more aggressively. The hormone is active between the third and the fifth months, and as such live weight gain differences are apparent in this period.
Bulls and steers exhibit different carcass characteristics because the aggressive behavior among bulls leads to amplification in dark cutting. Dark cutting occurs when the bulls fight until they exhaust the stores of muscle glycogen. This will affect the quality of meat in terms of taste, color and shelf life. The meat of a bull is less palatable meaning that it is dry, tough, and dark, and as a result, it will not be appealing to the customers. Therefore, steer carcasses are preferred because they are palatable and appealing to the consumers (Carter 58).
There is increasing consumer demand for beef that is lean, flavorful and tender, and as such, it remains the future determinant of beef production. Consumers are vocal in demanding beef that has more fat, and these sentiments are common when an economy is experiencing high rate of inflation since tenderness is compared to meat of steers.
Based on the information and literature reviewed, if consumers knew the difference, would they prefer eating a steer beef because it is tender, flavorful, and palatable? The beef has less or no masculine tissues, and it is not tough. The beef is also compatible with the current beef production systems, and as such, it is not costly to process. Consumers also prefer meat with no dark cutting and with more fat, and as such, steer beef is more compatible with the requirements of consumers than bull beef. Steer beef is also cheap as compared to bull beef.
In conclusion, though it is imperative to castrate beef cattle in order to boost the quality of beef production, there is also a growing need to leave bulls with distinctive characteristics for breeding. The practice of castration should also accommodate welfare concerns of the calves. This can be achieved by ensuring that the calves are relieved of any castration-related pain and stress. As such, it is necessary to use analgesics or anesthesia during the routine procedure of castration. This will ensure that calves do not go through painful experience and discomfort during the castration procedure. In summary, bulls that are not required for breeding should be castrated.