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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

A survey of castration methods and associated livestock management practices performed by bovine veterinarians in the United States

Johann F Coetzee1*, Abbey L Nutsch2, Laura A Barbur1 and Ryan M Bradburn2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5601, USA

2 Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5601, USA

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BMC Veterinary Research 2010, 6:12  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-6-12

Published: 3 March 2010



Castration of male calves destined for beef production is a common management practice performed in the United States amounting to approximately 15 million procedures per year. Societal concern about the moral and ethical treatment of animals is increasing. Therefore, production agriculture is faced with the challenge of formulating animal welfare policies relating to routine management practices such as castration. To enable the livestock industry to effectively respond to these challenges there is a need for more data on management practices that are commonly used in cattle production systems. The objective of this survey was to describe castration methods, adverse events and husbandry procedures performed by U.S. veterinarians at the time of castration. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent to email addresses of 1,669 members of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and 303 members of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants.


After partially completed surveys and missing data were omitted, 189 responses were included in the analysis. Surgical castration with a scalpel followed by testicular removal by twisting (calves <90 kg) or an emasculator (calves >90 kg) was the most common method of castration used. The potential risk of injury to the operator, size of the calf, handling facilities and experience with the technique were the most important considerations used to determine the method of castration used. Swelling, stiffness and increased lying time were the most prevalent adverse events observed following castration. One in five practitioners report using an analgesic or local anesthetic at the time of castration. Approximately 90% of respondents indicated that they vaccinate and dehorn calves at the time of castration. Over half the respondents use disinfectants, prophylactic antimicrobials and tetanus toxoid to reduce complications following castration.


The results of this survey describe current methods of castration and associated management practices employed by bovine veterinarians in the U.S. Such data are needed to guide future animal well-being research, the outcomes of which can be used to develop industry-relevant welfare guidelines.