Expert advises early castration for beef calves


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Livestock producers should have beef calves castrated within a few months of birth, rather than waiting for weaning, said W. Mark Hilton, clinical professor of food animal production medicine at Purdue University.

The benefits of early castration include less pain for the animal at the time of surgery, improved health in the feedlot, improved carcass tenderness and marbling, decreased stress on the calf and a quicker rebreeding for dams nursing steer calves.

“There seems to be some controversy on when calves should be castrated, but the evidence shows that early castration is the better option,” Hilton said.

Weight factor

Calves castrated at weaning, which typically happens when the animal is 6-7 months old, will lose weight after the procedure or gain significantly less weight than calves castrated early, he said.

The supposed ‘testosterone advantage’ to leaving bulls as bulls during the suckling phase is proven to be false and castrating calves early is of tremendous benefit to the producer, the feeder, the consumer and our beef industry, Hilton said.

There is also a financial advantage to early castration. Bull calves sell at a discount of $5-$15 per hundredweight compared to steer calves, or about $25 for a 500-pound animal.

Nearly all bull calves will be castrated at the feedlot, which could lead to decreased weight gain, increased sickness, increased mortality, reduced tenderness and reduced marbling, Hilton said.

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