When it comes to properly stewarding your land and animals, sometimes we need to castrate a male animal. Castration is a sometimes required, but unenjoyable, task for everyone involved.
It’s absolutely not a fun task to cause pain to any animal even when it’s in their best interest. There are many reasons to castrate male livestock.
Because this is nerve-wracking procedure, I went searching for progress pictures and guidance in multiple sources to make sure I took care of my buckling in the best way possible.
Imagine my dismay when I couldn’t find proper progress pictures from the date of castration to fully healed status! I’m a very visual person and need to compare my boy to someone else’s experience.
Since I couldn’t find that for my first castration, I’m providing that visual guide for you. Keep reading for my thoughts on castration, my chosen method, and progress pictures for our mini myotonic (fainting) goat, Jester.
reasons to castrate your male goat/sheep/cattle…
- to prevent the continuation of bad heritable traits
- to allow multiple males to live together peaceably (fighting to the point of permanent injury or death is possible)
- to deter unwanted behavior in sexually mature males (bucks pee on their beards to attract the ladies)
- to prevent unwanted pregnancies in female livestock (wethers can be kept for their wool production year over year but not as a buck or ram)
- to provide better tasting meat (some say the decrease in testosterone creates a better flavor)
So your ram, buck, or bull needs castrating. Now what?
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choose your castration method
Unfortunately there are no completely painless methods of castration. But pain and discomfort can be minimized.
Below are the most common ways of castrating livestock.
Typically this involves a veterinarian conducting a farm visit and slicing the scrotum open with a blade to remove the testicles. This is not considered a bloodless method of castration.
- done by a veterinarian (although some experienced handlers can tackle this too)
- effective immediately because the testicles are physically removed
- creates an open wound which could lead to infection or fly strike
- typically requires a veterinarian so the cost is higher
- longer recovery time than a bloodless castration method
- expensive when done by a veterinarian
Did you know?
Goats under anesthesia have a 7.3% mortality rate.
Laying on their sides during surgery increases their risk of death. Because of their digestive system setup with a rumen, they aren’t able to “burp” as effectively on their side which could press against their lungs and decrease their capacity to breathe. Source
Considered a bloodless method of castration when using a tool like a Burdizzo. A clamp crushes the spermatic cords from the body to the scrotum effectively cutting off blood to the testicles. The testicles are then reabsorbed by the body.
- a bloodless procedure that doesn’t require an open wound
- can be done at home without a veterinarian
- not as effective as surgical castration because, if not done correctly, the cords aren’t crushed completely
- sometimes the spermatic cords will roll out of the clamp and require multiple crushings – ouch!
- time consuming with large herds or flocks
The most common method of at-home castration. A tight band is placed around the scrotum (underneath the teats) until it dies and falls off.
- can be done at home without a veterinarian
- doesn’t require much skill beyond placing it correctly
- inexpensive especially with large herds
- takes a good bit of time for the scrotum to fall off
- can be time-consuming if the herd or flock is large
We chose the banding method for our male livestock. Why?
- we weren’t going to risk the health of our animals with an open wound or under anesthesia
- it’s an inexpensive method and no more painful than any other method
- for newbies, a bander is the easiest method to do correctly
We researched and use the California bander for multiple reasons.
- easier to use on older animals with larger testicles (we castrate at older ages than typical)
- easier to use on any animal in almost any position since the band circle is created by the user rather than already existing as a circle
- we watched a great and very convincing YouTube video on the California bander
The rest of this post will be from the perspective of the California bander specifically, but is relevant to other types of banding.
what age to castrate
While your situation dictates when the best time is to castrate, it’s extremely important for young male livestock to have their testicles and the testosterone for as long as possible. This allows their urinary tract to grow properly to prevent the risk of issues like urinary calculi later on.
Overall an animal should be able to develop with the proper hormones for as long as possible to allow them a long and healthy life.
Some castrate 2 weeks after birth but the typical recommendation is at 12 weeks.
We choose to castrate no younger than 4 months but have castrated at 6 months as well. We prefer to allow male livestock to keep their testicles as long as possible dependent on their situation (behavior, sexually mature females around, going to a new home, etc.).
how to castrate a ram/buck/bull using the California bander
The best advice is high and tight. The band should be above both testicles and very tight to make sure all blood flow is stopped.
However, DO NOT include the teats in the band. This will cause extreme pain to your animal and senseless injury.
We also soaked our bands in apple cider vinegar (ACV) for 24 hours prior to banding to disinfect them.
Every few days we would spray antiseptic spray on the scrotum area to prevent infection or fly strike. We had no issues with this castration method.
For a walkthrough of how to use the California bander, here’s the video that convinced us to buy it.
what does the goat/sheep/cattle experience?
Again, there is no pain-free method of castration. It just isn’t possible no matter how much we wish it did.
With banding cutting off blood supply, liken it so having a string wrapped around your finger tightly. It will tingle and be uncomfortable until you lose feeling.
That’s how it most likely feels for your livestock. It’s uncomfortable for a few hours to a day or so and then they act like nothing is wrong. That’s exactly how it went for our buckling.
As in the video, your guy will probably mope around for a bit and lay down more often. Just make sure no other animals are harassing him until this period passes.
I found that the scrotum swelled for a few days and then started to shrivel up like a grape to a raisin.
How does this grow sovereignty?
Being able to research about and take care of your animals that take care of you is important and fulfilling.
Veterinarians are not always available for all types of livestock or even at all in some areas. Full responsibility for our animal’s well-being resides with us so we must be educated, safe, and thorough.
how long should the whole process take?
The actual banding takes less than 30 seconds.
At 2 weeks blood flow has stopped and the scrotum is shriveled. At this point, we cut the scrotum off like in the video. Boy, did it smell! Antiseptic spray came in handy for our peace of mind and health of Jester.
During the cutting, Jester was completely unbothered because there was no feeling in the scrotum. The banding was successful.
If left alone, the scrotum should fall off sometime in the 2 months following banding. Jester’s band fell off 35 days after he was banded using the California bander.
Good luck finding those jewel bags once they fall because they tend to blend in with the ground. If you have a dog, they’ll definitely find a new treat.
choose your Facebook groups carefully
Many livestock groups on Facebook are super helpful. I’ve learned so much just from reading other people’s posts about their animals and the different ways to care for them.
But not all groups are for truly raising and stewarding animals. It’s great to go to these groups for advice and help but always be wary of what you’re reading.
Research and research and research!
Choosing the right path forward always comes back to what is best for the animal entrusted to our care.
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as promised, progress pictures and commentary
While pictures are spaced apart, we checked him out daily to make sure he was eating, drinking, and acting normally. We also made sure to check his band to make sure no infection was evident. Homesteading schedules didn’t always allow time for a genitalia photoshoot.
Forgive some of the blurry and off-center pictures. It can be difficult to have a loving goat stand still for pictures when he just wants to chew on your hair.
BE WARNED! DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH
using the California bander to castrate Jester, our buckling, at 6 months of age
Jester was given a bucket of alfalfa and happily munched away during the whole process. Not one peep out of him in frustration, anger or pain! This was a huge relief for me as I was very nervous and didn’t want to inflict any discomfort.
At one point he did become concerned with whatever was touching his leg (the band).
He was still his loving self (and continued to be) and tried to chew on us and ask for affection. He did lay down a bit more than normal but continued to eat and drink.
After some swelling in the first few days, the scrotum starts to shrivel. Totally normal!
Some real grape to raisin shriveling action going on here.
The dying off is really showing here.
He’s still loving us and being his usual goaty self.
We should have cut the band down shorter. Next time!
Scrotum is becoming noticeably smaller.
Progressing well and still being a ridiculous boy always wanting affection.
Time to cut them off!
Cutting off the scrotum keeps the dead tissue away from healthy tissue, allows the wound to air out, and keeps it from catching on something outside and tearing terribly.
I was hoping to turn the scrotum into a useful sack of sort, but that hasn’t panned out so far.
We see the outside of the wound dry off.
Continuing to dry out and die off.
The band falls off! And I can’t believe I actually found it.
I searched because I didn’t want Juno (our livestock guardian dog) finding it and eating it along with the band.
Healing up so well!
Delivery to his new family day! For our first banding, I wanted to make sure Jester was fully healed up and healthy to head to his new home.
Healthy pink skin is showing and the open wound is closed.
Jester is living his best life with his adopted brother (a Nigerian Dwarf), Maverick, with our amazing friends nearby.
summing it up
No pain-free castration exists but banding mitigates as much pain and discomfort as possible while being safe and effective.
The California bander is really a fantastic option for any animal age and any level of experience with banding.
As unsettling as some of the pictures can be, I hope to give assurance to the next person to castrate their animal by viewing a healthy and natural process.
We couldn’t be happier with how wonderfully Jester handled it all like a champ and how well the whole process went.