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Application of pain relief for castration

When undertaking castration, always ensure best practice husbandry recommendations are followed and that application guidelines, which are present on all pain relief product labels, are adhered to. 

For up to date husbandry guidelines, please refer to A guide to best practice husbandry in beef cattle.

Ring castration

For ring castration, local anaesthetics have been effective at decreasing behavioural and cortisol responses, suggesting this is an effective method to decrease or eliminate short-term pain.

Buccalgesic did not result in any benefit in the first hours following ring castration in a NZ study. However, a Canadian study in dairy calves where oral meloxicam was given two hours prior to either ring or surgical castration reported pain relief for up to three days.

Surgical castration

For surgical castration, local anaesthesia has not resulted in substantial analgesia. However, Tri-Solfen sprayed onto the spermatic cords and cut edges of the scrotum reduced pain-related behaviour, and the development of hyperalgesia of the wound site was lessened. Meloxicam provides some pain relief, but Buccalgesic is only registered for pain relief with castration in calves when combined with local anaesthesia, which is not currently available for cattle unless administered by a veterinarian.

Alternate husbandry practices

Producers should always consider whether there is a need to undertake painful husbandry procedures on their animals or if there are suitable alternatives.

Castration is a routine procedure in almost all southern Australian commercial beef herds. This is due to the age of turn-off for most steers, issues around safe handling, effects on eating quality, processing and managing large numbers of entire males. Due to this, an established pathway for commercial beef production with entire males does not exist at present.