July 15, 2014
Physical Methods—Physical castration methods that are frequently used are those that involve surgical removal of the testicles, application of a constricting elastic band (rubber ring) at the base of the scrotum, and bloodless castration by the use of external clamping with an appropriate device (i.e. Burdizzo clamp).12 Combinations of physical methods can also be used, such as application of a Burdizzo clamp followed by rubber ring placement13,14 and surgical removal of scrotal tissue 9 days after application of a rubber ring.15
Chemical Methods—Chemical castration includes injection of sclerosing or toxic agents (e.g. 88% lactic acid) into the testicular parenchyma to cause irreparable damage and loss of function.16 Chemical castration requires additional procedural time and technical skill, and almost twice the healing time compared with surgical castration.16
Hormonal Methods—Hormonal castration (immunocastration) typically involves injection of immuncontraceptives to induce antibody production against gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), resulting in decreased production of endogenous hormones.17 Immunocastration has been shown to increase live weight, hot carcass weight, average daily gain, and dressing percentage following castration when compared with surgical methods.18 Although testosterone production is reduced for approximately 6 months after immunocastration, persistent mounting behavior, consumer concerns and the need for repeat injections have made the technique less effective and desirable than traditional, physical methods.2
Chronic pain—Persistent wounds were observed in 14-month-old bull calves castrated using emasculator bands; these wounds may produce chronic pain.7 Assessment of chronic pain has primarily been based on reduced weight gain and growth, but findings suggest that pain may persist for several weeks following castration.19,25 On the basis of behavioral parameters and the presence of inflammation and sepsis, it appears that castration with rubber rings produces both acute and chronic pain, whereas application of the Burdizzo clamp and surgical castration produce less chronic pain.19 Another author25 reported similar observations in 21- to 28-week-old calves. Calves castrated with rubber rings developed purulent inflammation at the site of ring placement, as well as swelling and hardening of the issues, until the distal scrotum detached after a mean of 47 days.25 Significantly more abnormal posturing was exhibited by rubber ring-castrated calves than by Burdizzo-castrated calves for the first week after castration.25 In addition, calves castrated with rubber rings exhibited signs of pain in response to scrotal palpation for up to 4 weeks longer than those castrated using Burdizzo clamps.25 So although banding may cause less immediate discomfort than surgery, the overall impact of banding may be greater (e.g. greater overall reduction in food intake and daily gain14,26). Questions remain regarding the impact of chronic pain secondary to castration.2
Hemorrhage—Risk of hemorrhage is greater after surgical castration.4 In a survey of New Zealand cattle producers, surgical castration was associated with reportedly higher complications, including bleeding, swelling, infection, and death.37
Disease—Castration-associated immunosuppression may increase risks of local or systemic disease after the procedure. Murata38 observed significant reductions in circulating white blood cells and T-lymphocyte function and significant increases in total white blood cell count and neutrophil count in 3- to 4-month-old bull calves castrated using a Burdizzo clamp; values returned to baseline by 7 days after surgery. Surgical castration causes increased haptoglobin and decreased gamma-interferon production.6,7,23 Haptoglobin exerts a suppressive effect on lymphocyte function, and reduction of gamma-interferon results in suppression of the immune system’s cell-mediated immunity and response to antigens.6,23 Studies indicate that castration-associated leukocyte depression may be limited or eliminated by pre-surgical administration of a local anesthetic and a systemic analgesic.39 Administration of ketoprofen, either alone or in combination with local administration of lidocaine, decreased haptoglobin concentrations and prevented suppression of the gamma-interferon response; therefore, administration of ketoprofen reduced immunosuppression associated with surgical castration.6 In contrast, administration of xylazine in combination with butorphanol had no effect on haptoglobin concentrations after surgical castration.9 Increased haptoglobin concentrations were not observed following elastrator band castration of 14-month-old bull calves.7or ring castration of 6-month old bull calves when given flunixin meglumine in combination with local lidocaine use.40
Performance—Cattle may demonstrate reduced feed intake and average daily gain (ADG) for a period of time after castration.23,43,44 Many experiments failed to detect differences related to castration method.43-46 Differences may be found in specific studies where band castration may produce either superior or inferior growth rates7,48 when compared with surgically castrated animal or controls.
Physiologic stress—Castration is considered to be one of the most stressful experiences for livestock.7,22,54 Blood cortisol concentrations have been studied as indicators of physiologic stress in animals. Regardless of the means of castration, cortisol concentrations are increased following the procedure; however, onset, magnitude, and duration may vary with the procedure used.4,13,19,43,54 Surgical castration appears to produce the most substantial rise in plasma cortisol concentration.3,6,19,37,54 Application of the Burdizzo clamp may also be associated with a similar, rapid rise in cortisol concentration due to the barrage of afferent neural impulses during and after crushing of the spermatic cord and scrotal nerves.13,19,55 Chase et al43 observed that plasma cortisol concentrations increased immediately after surgical castration; animals that were banded had cortisol increases of less initial intensity, but the concentrations were similar for both procedures on the second postoperative day. Salivary cortisol concentrations observed between 15 minutes and 2 hours after castration in 4- to 11-week-old calves undergoing surgery were much higher than those of calves castrated using rubber rings.22 Stafford54 observed similar overall cortisol responses for elastrator band, rubber ring, and surgical castration, but lower cortisol responses for castration using a Burdizzo clamp. Pieler et al. found that Burdizzo castration, surgical castration and partial scrotal resection do not cause significantly different levels of stress when the animal is administered xylazine and local anesthesia.56
Placement of elastrator bands/rings without prior anesthesia produced a slightly lower cortisol increase than surgical castration.14 Immunocastration resulted in only transient increases in cortisol concentration, likely due to stress induced by handling and injection.3
Epidurals—Epidural anesthesia or local anesthesia (with lidocaine) prior to castration using a Burdizzo clamp did not significantly reduce the integrated (area under the curve) cortisol response in 13-month-old bull calves compared with use of the Burdizzo clamp alone.21 Although peak cortisol response was reduced approximately 30% by administration of an epidural, suppression was only observed for the one-hour duration of effect for the epidural.21 Xylazine epidurals combined with intravenous flunixin meglumine produced no significant differences in animal health or feedlot performance compared to animals that did not receive anesthesia/analgesia.16,26
Sedation—Intravenous xylazine, alone or with ketamine, has been shown to reduce behavioral indications of distress and serum cortisol concentrations immediately after castration.60 The addition of ketamine to more traditional chemical restraint formulas (“ketamine stun”) can increase patient cooperation, and has been shown to lower stress response to both dehorning and castration in calves.61
Analgesia—Administration of NSAIDs results in prolonged postoperative analgesia.62 Administration of ketoprofen, either alone or in conjunction with local anesthetic, significantly reduced the cortisol response associated with castration.6,21,54 Cortisol responses of 22-week-old calves to which ketoprofen was administered prior to castration were similar to those of uncastrated controls, and the calves exhibited comparable growth rates for at least 7 days following castration.6 Administration of ketoprofen also reduced the postoperative rise in plasma fibrinogen concentrations; this increase was not attenuated by administration of local anesthetic alone.6 The combination of local anesthesia and preoperative ketoprofen virtually eliminated the cortisol response to castration in 3-month-old calves, regardless of method used.35 Ketoprofen administered to 13-month-old bull calves reduced cortisol response by 52% compared with cattle to which local anesthesia was administered prior to castration, and by 58% compared with cattle to which epidural anesthesia was administered prior to castration.21 Calves to which ketoprofen was administered prior to castration exhibited increased feeding and rumination activities and fewer pain-associated behavioral responses than those castrated without ketoprofen.21 Intramuscular ketoprofen alone has not been shown to significantly limit post-castration pain.63 Intravenous nalbuphine may reduce pain-related behaviors but does not significantly reduce physiologic signs of distress following castration.64 Sodium salicylate administered either alone or in conjunction with sedation (intramuscular xylazine, ketamine, butorphanol - XKB), also significantly reduced the cortisol response associated with simultaneous castration and dehorning.65 In addition, sodium salicylate reduced the decrease in ADG from simultaneous castration and dehorning.65 Sodium salicylate is also observed to increase the time animals spend lying down post-castration when administered with XKB.66 Administration of meloxicam prior to castration reduced the decrease in ADG in the first two weeks following castration.67 Other studies have shown meloxicam to reduce but not eliminate pain-related behaviors following castration. Those same studies noted no significant effect on performance after castration when comparing calves treated with meloxicam to the control group.68,69,70,71 Meloxicam also reduced the number of animals requiring treatment for bovine respiratory disease following castration.67
Access—Obstacles to the provision of pain relief to cattle include limited availability of some pharmaceuticals and costs associated with their use.72,73 The only NSAID approved for use in cattle in the United States is flunixin meglumine, and its approval is for control of fever associated with respiratory disease or mastitis, and fever and inflammation associated with endotoxemia, rather than for control of pain. Extralabel drug use in the United States is only permitted under certain conditions, among which is that the animal must undergo a prescribed meat and/or milk withdrawal period afterwards.74 Use of flunixin meglumine is complicated by its intravenous route of administration (significant tissue reactions have occurred after intramuscular administration). It would be useful to determine whether flunixin meglumine is an acceptable substitute for ketoprofen, or that ketoprofen is preferable and so supported for extra-label use under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994 (AMDUCA). Ketoprofen has a short half-life and a withdrawal time of 7 days is recommended.75 Recently one author demonstrated that flunixin meglumine in combination with caudal epidural anesthesia appeared to improve stride length and visual pain assessment in calves.5 Improving the availability of approved, easily administered NSAIDs in the United States is necessary for safe and uniform use.60,76 Many currently available research metrics and tools could be utilized to test anesthetics and analgesics for approval in the United States.77 Little research has been done to show that pain management significantly increases production outcomes, furthermore, most of the studies in this area have been too short to adequately assess this.78 Use of pharmaceuticals, which may be accompanied by a need for additional veterinary assistance, adds to production costs78; however, research conducted in New Zealand suggests the associated increase is small in relation to overall farm costs.44 A review of pain assessment and pharmacological approaches to pain relief after castration suggests that the use of multimodal analgesic regimens (e.g., NSAID and a local anesthetic) are more effective at mitigating pain and distress associated with castration than using one modality on its own.78
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