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Technology

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. 

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Surgical castration,
rubber banding 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.

Alternative to
the above stated procedures, immunocastration is a recently developed procedure
that indirectly supresses 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 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 speciality 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 flavour 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 labelling on Canadian beef
cattle meat products indicates that they are from a farm with higher Canadian
standards.  This labelling process has
potential to economically motivate castrators to use pain mitigation drugs since
consumers may show preference to 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. Behavioural changes such as stride length, grunting
and restlessness should also be taken into consideration.

            There
is repeated biological evidence and consensus favouring 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 pain, tendency towards immobility
(either by statue standing or laying down), hemmorage 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 of
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 reasonable and generally
accepted practice are 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, willfully
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 offence because the rancher’s intention
is to carry out castration for business, not cause pain.

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