Cattle production: Castration methods for calves/cattle

Question: What are the advantages and disadvantages of different castration methods in calves?

Bull calves have to be castrated as soon as possible and before reaching an age of two months. Different methods can be used.

The purpose of castration is:

  • To ensure the bull calves can’t breed or reproduce.
  • It takes less time to round off castrated bull calves than non-castrated bull calves.
  • It is easier to handle castrated bull calves.

Methods of castration:


  • The blood vessels and spermatic cords are cut without cutting the scrotum skin itself.
  • Only one spermatic cord is cut at a time. It is important to cut the two spermatic cords at different levels (one at a higher level). If the procedure is not carried out like this, there will be insufficient blood supply to the scrotum and gangrene might develop.
  • This is a bloodless procedure and very rarely causes infection.
  • The urethra can be damaged if the method is not applied correctly.
  • The following clinical signs indicate a damaged urethra: blood in the urine; swelling under the stomach around the penis; swelling of the belly; the calf can’t urinate; severe pain.
The Burdizzo castration pliers.


  • Elastrator pliers are used to put on a tight latex (rubber) elastrator ring on the scrotum above the testicles between birth and the age of 10 days.
  • The method might lead to tetanus.
  • Prone to infection.
  • The method is more painful.
  • It is a bloodless method.
The Elastrator pliers along with the the rubber bands used for the elastrator method.

Open castration

  • A sharp knife or scalpel is used to cut open the scrotum. Castrating pliers are used to cut off the testicles. It is better to use castrating pliers than a knife.
  • This is a painful method and often leads to infection.

Short scrotum method

  • Rubber rings are used to keep the testicles in the abdomen and to prevent it from dropping into the scrotum.
  • The method causes inadequate temperature regulation in the testicles.
  • It is not advised to use this method, because there is an increased risk of cancer formation in the testicles. The method also doesn’t ensure the complete inability to breed.

If any of the above methods are not applied accurately, it can lead do inadequate castration.


  • Watch the castrated animals for about 10 days after the procedure for any signs of swelling, pain, loss in appetite, infection and fever.
  • Fly control is crucial.
  • Visit your nearest co-op or contact your veterinarian – they can provide information on where to find the instruments needed.

Dr Faffa Malan is the manager of the Ruminant Veterinary Association of South Africa (RuVASA).

share this