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A variety of castration technologies and procedures are currently in practice and being developed in different parts of the world. Such technologies and procedures have varying advantages and disadvantages with respect to their practice. Surgical castration, rubberbanding, and the burdizzo clamp are three of the most commonly used methods. Surgical castration involves restraining the cow and then using a scalpel to completely remove the testicular tissue.
Although surgical castration is a painfully intense procedure that requires expertise from personnel, the castration process is a lot quicker and the beef cattle are in pain for a lot shorter amount of time in comparison to other castrating methods. The wounds which are inflicted by surgical castration heal relatively faster than other methods but they also run the risk of infection. The rubber banding procedure involves the use of an elastic band to physically terminates blood supply to the scrotum and testes. The scrotal and testicular tissue of the beef cattle eventually dies and falls off.
Advantages of this procedure are that it is easy to perform, and there is no open wound on the beef cattle that is prone to infection. Some major disadvantages to this procedure are the following: testicular tissue may not be fully removed, development of belly nuts, the procedure causes long-term pain to the beef cattle and the wounds heal more slowly. Similar to elastic banding, the burdizzo clamping method physiologically terminates blood supply to the scrotum and testes causing them to fall off. The burdizzo emasculator is the tool that is used to crush the vas deference and the artery supplying the blood to the scrotum and testes. Since the burdizzo emasculator must be held in place for at least 10 seconds, the beef cattle are also restrained during this method of castration. The burdizzo clamping method minimizes the acute pain experienced by surgical castration and since there are no open wounds there is a lessened risk of infection.
However, this method requires expertise, causes greater swelling than elastic banding and there is a risk that not all of the testicular tissue will be removed. An alternative to the above-stated procedures, immunocastration is a recently developed procedure that indirectly suppresses testosterone production by inducing production of antibodies against gonadotropin-releasing hormone. This process is prompted via injections to the beef cattle twice within their lifetime. This procedure is advantageous because it causes less pain to the beef cattle than other castration procedures.
Disadvantages to this procedure are that there is a limited time frame of the castrated effect (12-16 weeks), it has a high failure rate and that it is not as widely available around the world. The pain experienced during castration can be mitigated through the use of anesthetic and analgesic drugs. An example of an anesthetic drug used during castration is lidocaine. Many of the analgesic drugs used during castration are anti-inflammatories and also reduce the sensation of pain. Economics: The cost of castration varies with respect to the castration procedure used.
For example, one of the costlier procedures for beef cattle castration is immunocastration, whereas elastic banding and surgical castration are relatively cheap in comparison. Additionally, if the castration procedure requires the assistance of a veterinarian, then cost of castration is significantly greater. An example of such a case would be the cost of the surgical procedure required to remove belly nuts, a complication of the rubber band castration procedure. The drugs used for pain management during the painful practice of castration also affect the cost of castration. A study found that the castration cost for a calf that is given no anesthesia is 28 cents but the total castration cost is increased to $1.56 when the calf is administered local anesthesia.
Furthermore, the cost of castration further increases with the administration of systemic analgesia. The cost of castration is offset by the following economic benefits: reducing the cost of beef cattle management and the improvement of the meat quality. Castration results in the creation of docile bulls which are easier to handle because of their significantly decreased aggression. Because of this, docile bulls do not require expensive specialty fences and handling equipment. Less fencing is also needed for castrated beef cattle because castration eliminates the possibility of unwanted breeding and therefore decreases the cost of fencing. There is a strong economic motivation to castrate because, without castration, the beef cattle meat has a stronger flavor and is sold at a lower price. There is also a study that shows that although most consumers are not in agreement with castration practices, they are not willing to pay more for uncastrated meat. Since the use of anesthesia and other pain mitigating drugs during castration does not increase profits, there is less motivation for castrators to use them. The usage of BCSPCA labeling on Canadian beef cattle meat products indicates that they are from a farm with higher Canadian standards. This labeling process has the potential to economically motivate castrators to use pain mitigation drugs since consumers may show a preference for and pay more for these higher standard meat products. Biological Knowledge: The pain and stress of castration procedures are quantitatively measured by the levels of cortisol in the beef cattle. Within the context of cattle castration, a higher concentration of cortisol in the body is indicative of a higher level of pain and stress caused by that castration procedure. Because cortisol concentration in the body is affected by multiple factors other than pain and stress, they should not be used as the only biological indicator that is used to quantify pain and stress.
Behavioral changes such as stride length, grunting and restlessness should also be taken into consideration. There is repeated biological evidence and consensus favoring the castration of calves at a younger age. Such evidence mainly suggests that younger castrated calves have faster recovery rates, a lower amount of pain (indicated by cortisol levels) and less effect on weight gain changes during surgical castration. With respect to recovery rates, the shock of castration has also been shown to be lower in younger calves. The main biological side effects of castration are a pain, a tendency towards immobility (either by statue standing or laying down), hemorrhage and infection. Cortisol is an immunosuppressant and since the levels of it increase during castration, the calf becomes even more susceptible to infections. Weight gain is an additional side effect of castration and the amount of weight of the change is dependent on the procedure used.
For example, surgically castrated calves have shown a reduced rate of weight gain in comparison to banding castrated calves. There have been a few studies done to compare the efficacy of drugs used for pain mitigation in cattle castration. One study found that the anti-inflammatory drug ketoprofen was more effective in reducing pain than the local anesthetic, lidocaine.
Additionally, it was found that the use of caudal epidural anesthesia was also more effective in decreasing pain than lidocaine. The above results suggest that lidocaine may not be the best pain mitigation drug for cattle. Regulations: Each country has their own set of beef cattle castration regulations that also vary with regards to their level of enforcement. The “Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle” is a Canadian document outlining guidelines that are either requirements or recommended practices. However, only the requirements within this document are enforced by provincial and federal laws.
An example of a requirement within the code is that a vet consultation and pain management is required for cattle over 6 months of age. But in reality only a very small percentage of calves are castrated at such an age, so how effective is this requirement in increasing animal welfare. Countries also differ between regulations regarding alternative castration procedures. For example, chemical castration for calves is not licensed in Canada. The PCA Act (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act) is a provincial level system that outlines the regulations for animal care in Canada. The PCA Act states that a person cannot cause animals distress or permit someone else to do the same. There is, however, a huge exemption to farm animals which says that as long as a reasonable and generally accepted practice is being carried out (in this case castration), then the distress of the animal is not against the law. Section 445.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code states that everyone who willfully causes, or being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal is offending the criminal code of Canada.
Castration by ranchers is however not seen as a criminal offense because the rancher’s intention is to carry out castration for business, not cause pain. Values: Ethical concerns of castration of beef cattle are growing in society. The predominately stated ethical issue of the general public concerns the pain caused to the cattle. Because there is evidence that castration done in younger animals causes them less pain, castration of older male animals without anesthesia is being seen as more unethical over time. According to survey studies, the most of the public is imposed on castration unless it is used for animal production which then shows a greater acceptance of castration. What a lot of the public is unaware of is that anesthesia of all castrations is not required. Interestingly, survey results of veterinarians who perform castrations show that the issue of the primary importance of a procedure is the risk to themselves rather than the pain caused to the cattle which occurs at the bottom of the list. The ethics of castration may be seen very differently by ranchers performing them.
To them, this is a business and can be described as dissociating themselves empathetically from the animals. Because of its deep roots in ranching history, castration procedures may be even seen as a tradition by ranchers. Nevertheless, the ethical concerns surrounding cattle castration are a driving force to develop farming/ranching practices which relieve the pain
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