Skip to main content Accessibility help

Effects of age of Holstein-Friesian calves on plasma cortisol, acute-phase proteins, immunological function, scrotal measurements and growth in response to Burdizzo castration

  • S. T. L. Ting (a1) (a2), B. Earley (a1), I. Veissier (a3), S. Gupta (a1) (a2) and M. A. Crowe (a2) (a4)...


To determine the effect of age at castration on physiological and immunological stress indices, 60 Holstein-Friesian bull calves were sourced so that they were in one of five age groups for Burdizzo castration on day 0 (16 July 2002; no. = 10 per treatment) : 1·5, 2·5, 3·5, 4·5, and 5·5 months of age (mean body weight ± s.e. = 63 ± 2·5, 89 ± 3·7, 104 ± 3·7, 142 ± 3·6, 169 ± 8·1 kg, respectively), or were sham castrated at 5·5 months of age (171 ± 2·9 kg body weight) to serve as intact controls specific to this age group. Blood samples were collected at 15- to 30-min intervals from 2 h before until 8 h after treatment, with further samples collected at 10 and 12 h on day 0, and on days 1, 2 and 3, and weekly from days 7 to 35 after treatment. Following castration, peak plasma cortisol responses were significantly greater in 5·5-month-old castrates than intact calves, and all calves castrated at a younger age had reduced peak responses, with the greatest reduction in 1·5-month-old castrates. Overall, the integrated cortisol responses for the first 3 h after castration were three-fold greater in 5·5-month-old castrates than intact calves. While the integrated cortisol responses were reduced by proportionately 0·46 and 0·35 in 1·5- and 4·5-month-old castrates, the lower responses observed in 2·5- and 3·5- month-old castrates were not significantly different from the 5·5-month-old castrates. The integrated cortisol responses for the next 9 h after castration were not different among treatment groups. On day 3 after castration, peak plasma haptoglobin and fibrinogen concentrations were significantly greater in 5·5-month-old castrates than intact calves, but the concentrations were markedly reduced in calves castrated at 1·5 and 2·5 months than when castrated at 5·5 months of age. On day 1, phytohaemagglutinin-induced in vitro interferon-γ production was suppressed in 5·5-month-old castrates compared with intact calves. Scrotal circumferences increased in all castrates on day 1 and 7 and were greater in 5·5- month-old castrates than intact calves, but the swelling was reduced in the 1·5- compared with 5·5-month-old castrates. The temperature differences between the core body and scrotal skin were greater on day 2 and 3 in the 1·5-month-old than all other castrates. There was no effect of castration on the overall 42-day growth rates of calves. In conclusion, the physiological stress and inflammation caused by Burdizzo castration, indicated by increased plasma cortisol, acute-phase proteins, scrotal swelling, and depressed temperature differences between the core body and scrotal skin were reduced by castrating calves at 1·5 months rather than at 5·5 months of age.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Animal Welfare Centre. 2002. A workshop to identify animal welfare issues within animal industries. AWC, Victorian Institute of Animal Science, Werribbee, Australia. Available: http: //www. animalwelfare. org. au/comm/awissues. pdf.
Bagley, C. P., Morrison, D. G., Feazel, J. L. and Saxton, A. M. 1989. Growth and sexual characteristics of suckling beef calves as influenced by age at castration and growth implants. Journal of Animal Science 67: 12581264.
Baumann, H. and Gauldie, J. 1994. The acute phase response. mmunology Today 15: 7480.
Capucille, D. J., Poore, M. H. and Rogers, G. M. 2002. Castration in cattle: techniques and animal welfare issues. Compendium on Continuing Education for Practicing Veterinarians 24: S66–S73.
Clark, R. A. F. 2000. Fibrin and wound healing. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 936: 355367.
Cottrell, D. F. and Molony, V. 1995. Afferent activity in the superior spermatic nerve of lambs – the effects of application of rubber castration rings. Veterinary Research Communications. 19: 503515.
Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 2003. Code of recommendations for the welfare of livestock: cattle. DEFRA Publications, London. Available: http: //www. defra. gov. uk/ animalh/welfare/farmed/cattle/booklets/cattcode. pdf.
Douglass, L. W. 2002. Analysis of correlated measures: temporally related observations, repeated measures analysis. NCR-170 FASS mixed model workshop, ADSA-ASAS-CSAS joint annual meeting, 2002, Québec City.
Earley, B. and Crowe, M. A. 2002. Effects of ketoprofen alone or in combination with local anesthesia during the castration of bull calves on plasma cortisol, immunological, and inflammatory responses. Journal of Animal Science 80: 10441052.
Egdahl, R. 1959. Pituitary–adrenal response following trauma to the isolated leg. Surgery 46: 921.
Eicher, S. D. 1991. Transportation of cattle in the dairy industry: current research and future directions. Journal of Dairy Science 84: (suppl. E) E19–E23.
Federation of Animal Science Societies. 1999. Castration. In Beef cattle husbandry. Guide for the care and use of agricultural animals in agricultural research and teaching, first revised edition, pp. 3334. FASS, Savoy, IL.
Fisher, A. D., Crowe, M. A., Alonso de la Varga, M. E. and Enright, W. J. 1996. Effect of castration method and the provision of local anaesthesia on plasma cortisol, scrotal circumference, growth and feed intake of bull calves. Journal of Animal Science 74: 23362343.
Fisher, A. D., Crowe, M. A., O'Nuallain, E. M., Monaghan, M. L., Larkin, J. A., O'Kiely, P. and Enright, W. J. 1997a. Effects of cortisol on in vitro interferon-. production, acute phase proteins, growth, and feed intake in a calf castration model. Journal of Animal Science 75: 10411047.
Fisher, A. D., Crowe, M. A., O'Nuallain, E. M., Monaghan, M. L., Prendiville, D. J., O'Kiely, P. and Enright, W. J. 1997b. Effects of suppressing cortisol following castration of bull calves on adrenocorticotropic hormone, in vitro interferon-. production, leukocytes, acute phase proteins, growth, and feed intake. Journal of Animal Science 75: 18991908.
Friedrich, M. 1996. Influence of exogenous and endogenous ACTH on adrenal cortex activity in calves during the early postnatal period. British Veterinary Journal 152: 315320.
Giannoudis, P. V. 2003. Current concepts of the inflammatory response after major trauma: an update. Injury 34: 397404.
Hudson, S., Mullord, M., Whittlestone, W. G. and Payne, E. 1976. Plasma corticoid levels in healthy and diarrhoeic calves from birth to 20 days of age. British Veterinary Journal 132: 551556.
Hyslop, J. J., Keatinge, R. and Chapple, D. G. 2003. Intake, growth and feed conversion in weaned suckled bulls finished on a cereal-based ration. Proceedings of the British Society of Animal Science, 2003, p. 11.
Ishikawa, H., Shibata, H. and Shirahata, T. 1992. Induction and assay of interferon (IFN) from mitogen-stimulated bovine peripheral lymphocytes. Research Bulletin of the Obihiro University 17: 331339.
Ivanova, E. and Ivanov, B. 2000. Mechanisms of the extracellular antioxidant defend. Experimental Pathology and Parasitology 4: 4959. Available: http: //www. iepp. bas. bg/EPP-vol 4 (4) 49–59. pdf.
Kent, J. E., Thrusfield, M. V., Robertson, I. S. and Molony, V. 1996. Castration of calves: a study of methods used by farmers in the United Kingdom. Veterinary Record 138: 384387.
King, B. D., Cohen, R. D. H., Guenther, C. L. and Janzen, E. D. 1991. The effect of age and method of castration on plasma cortisol in beef calves. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 71: 257263.
Knowles, T. G., Edwards, J. E., maBazeley, K. J., Brown, S. N., Butterworth, A. and Warriss, P. D. 2000. Changes in the blood biochemical and haematological profile of neonatal calves with age. Veterinary Record 147: 593598.
Littell, R. C., Milliken, G. A., Stroup, W. W. and Wolfinger, R. D. 1996. SAS system for mixed models. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.
Lyons-Johnson, D. 1998. Earlier castration reduces stress. Agricultural Research 46: 15. Available: http: //www. ars. usda. gov/ is/AR/archive/aug98/stres0898. pdf.
Mellor, D. J., Cook, C. J. and Stafford, K. J. 2000. Quantifying some responses to pain as a stressor. In The biology of animal stress: basic principles and implications for animal welfare (ed. Moberg, G. P. and Mench, J. A.), pp. 171198. CABI Publishing, Oxon.
Molony, V., Kent, J. E. and Robertson, I. S. 1995. Assessment of acute and chronic pain after different methods of castration of calves. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 46: 3348.
Murata, H. 1997. Effects of burdizzo castration on peripheral blood lymphocyte parameters in calves. Veterinary Journal 153: 229231.
Obled, C. 2002. Amino acid requirements in inflammatory states. Proceedings of the Canadian Society of Animal Science symposium, 2002, Québec, pp. 5563.
Ramin, A. G., Daniel, R. C. W., Fenwick, D. C. and Verrall, R. G. 1995. Responses of calves to injections of ACTH and their relationship with growth rate. Veterinary Record 137: 3841.
Robb, T. W. and Wood, A. D. 1990. Effect of zeranol implants on post-castration response in calves. Australian Veterinary Journal 67: 210211.
Robertson, I. S. 1966. Castration in farm animals: its advantages and disadvantages. Veterinary Record 78: 130135.
Robertson, I. S., Kent, J. E. and Molony, V. 1994. Effect of different methods of castration on behaviour and plasma cortisol in calves of three ages. Research in Veterinary Science 56: 817.
Rothel, J. S., Jones, S. L., Corner, L. A., Cox, J. C. and Wood, P. R. 1990. A sandwich enzyme immunoassay for bovine interferongamma and its use for the detection of tuberculosis in cattle. Australian Veterinary Journal 67: 134137.
Rothel, J. S., Jones, S. L., Corner, L. A., Cox, J. C. and Wood, P. R. 1992. The gamma-interferon assay for the diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis in cattle: conditions affecting the production of gammainterferon in whole blood culture. Australian Veterinary Journal 69: 14.
Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare. 2001. The welfare of cattle kept for beef production. Publication of the European Commission, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General by the SCAHAW SANCO. C. 2/AH/R22/2000. Adopted 25 April 2001. Available: http: //europa. eu. int/comm/ food/fs/sc/scah/out54_en. pdf.
Sidhu, P., Shojaee Aliabadi, F., Andrews, M. and Lees, P. 2003. Tissue chamber model of acute inflammation in farm animal species. Research in Veterinary Science 74: 6777.
Snedecor, G. W. and Cochran, W. G. 1989. Statistical methods, eighth edition. Iowa State University Press, Ames.
Stafford, K., Mellor, D., Todd, S., Bruce, R. and Ward, R. 2002. Effects of local anaesthesia or local anaesthesia plus a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug on the acute cortisol response of calves to five different methods of castration. Research in Veterinary Science 73: 6170.
Statistical Analysis Systems Institute. 2002. SAS for Windows, release 8. 02. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.
Stookey, J. M. 1996. Painful procedures and misconceptions. Animal Care ‘96: modern agriculture. Manitoba Farm Animal Council, 28 November 1996, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Available: http: //www. usask. ca/wcvm/herdmed/applied-ethology/articles/manitoba. html.
The Irish Statute Book. 2004. Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1965 (S. I. no. 10 of 1965); and S. I. no. 17 of European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals Act 1876) Regulations, 1994. Available http: //www. irishstatutebook. ie/.
Ting, S. T. L., Earley, B. and Crowe, M. A. 2003a. Effect of repeated ketoprofen administration during surgical castration of bulls on cortisol, immunological function, feed intake, growth and behavior. Journal of Animal Science 81: 12531264.
Ting, S. T. L., Earley, B., Hughes, J. M. L. and Crowe, M. A.. 2003b. Effect of ketoprofen, lidocaine local anaesthesia, and combined xylazine and lidocaine caudal epidural anaesthesia during castration of beef cattle on stress responses, immunity, growth and behavior. Journal of Animal Science 81: 12811293.
Townsend, J., Duffus, W. P. and Williams, D. J. 1988. The effect of age of cattle on the in vitro production of interferon by peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Journal of Comparative Pathology 99: 169185.
Turner, T. A. 2001. Diagnostic thermography. Veterinary Clinics of North America Equine Practice 17: 95113.
Verkerk, G. A. and Macmillan, K. L. 1997. Adrenocortical responses to an adrenocorticotrophic hormone in bulls and steers. Journal of Animal Science 75: 25202525.
Worrell, M. A., Clanton, D. C. and Calkins, C. R. 1987. Effect of weight at castration on steer performance in the feedlot. Journal of Animal Science 64: 343347.


Effects of age of Holstein-Friesian calves on plasma cortisol, acute-phase proteins, immunological function, scrotal measurements and growth in response to Burdizzo castration

  • S. T. L. Ting (a1) (a2), B. Earley (a1), I. Veissier (a3), S. Gupta (a1) (a2) and M. A. Crowe (a2) (a4)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed