While there are several ways to castrate calves and bulls, it’s less stressful to do all of them when calves are young. Randall Raymond, Simplot Livestock’s director of research and veterinary services, is a believer.

He says castration is a necessary procedure, not only for animal performance but also animal health and safety, as well as human safety. In his operation, Raymond says the procedure is performed “as young as we can have access to them. If not castrated at birth, the calves are castrated at branding, when they receive respiratory and clostridial vaccines.”

Cleanliness and technique are paramount, regardless of the method used. Daryl Meyer, a practicing DVM in North Platte, NE, recommends keeping tools in a bucket of water or disinfectant such as chlorhexidine. “It has the broadest spectrum of activity against a wide variety of pathogens and is also non-irritating to the tissues,” he says.

“Making sure the site [scrotum and surrounding area] is clean, the calf’s environment is clean, and tools are clean and in good working order are all crucial for success. The pen or environmental conditions are a factor when choosing methods. It’s hard to beat a green pasture that’s clean and dry,” he says.

Mark HiltonMark Hilton, a Purdue University DVM and regular BEEF magazine contributor, says cleanliness is so important that some producers postpone castrating at birth if the environment is muddy or dirty. “They write down the numbers of calves that didn’t get done, and cut them later. It’s not a good idea to castrate calves and have them lying in mud and manure,” he says.

And Raymond reminds those who band calves that tetanus is a risk anytime there is tissue without blood supply. “Tetanus can be part of a combination clostridial vaccine, or given separately. Anybody banding calves, or using the Burdizzo clamp and not removing the tissue, should give a tetanus vaccine,” he says.