Castrating Pigs, Lambs, and Goat Kids

Tips on How to Castrate a Pig and Other Livestock

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Castrating Pigs, Lambs, and Goat Kids

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Castrating pigs and other livestock is often done right on the farm. The supplies needed are found in a farm first aid box. Healing usually occurs without complication. When you begin raising piglets and other livestock for a profit, knowing how to do some routine tasks will save a lot of money that would be paid to a veterinarian. Castrating, wound care and euthanasia are often handled by the farmer. Dis-budding of horned animals is done before the horns sprout. This is another task a farmer would choose to do on the farm. Docking of tails and castrating are often done at the same time on lambs. Farmers and ranchers have taken on these tasks.

Methods Used when Castrating Pigs and Other Livestock

Burdizzo Emasculator – A bloodless procedure where the spermatic cords and arteries are crushed. Often this is the procedure of choice in late lambing. Since the procedure doesn’t require any surgical cutting, the healing is quicker and less stressful to the animal. This method is used on piglets, lambs, and kids. There is little danger of infection or fly strike because there are no open wounds or blood. After the Emasculator crushes the spermatic cords and arteries, the testicles will atrophy in 30 to 40 days.

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Elastrator – After the testicles have dropped into the scrotum you can apply a rubber ring around the scrotum. This is done with the elastrator tool, stretching the rubber ring and applying it to the top of the scrotum where it meets the body. It is important to count both testicles in the scrotum to make sure that the neutering procedure is complete. Doing this cuts off the blood supply to the testicles. The testicles will wither in about a month. No bleeding occurs with this method either. There is little chance of infection. The rubber ring should be sprayed with an antibiotic spray like Vetericyn Wound Spray to help ensure that no infection occurs. The skin and fleece on the scrotum should be wiped with fly repellent. During hot weather, using a fly repellent will help ensure that fly strike doesn’t happen.

Knife – Using a castrating knife is another method used in castrating piglets and other livestock. The piglet is restrained by one person and a second person does the cutting. Use a knife that has been soaked in disinfectant. The scrotum area is cleaned using disinfectant and antibacterial wound spray. A scalpel or razor blade are also sometimes used for castrating pigs. The scrotum is pulled tight once it is determined that both testicles are contained inside. Two incisions are made for removal of the testicles. The testes are pulled through the incision and cut off.  Unless complications such as a scrotal hernia are encountered, no suturing is needed and there is minimal blood loss. Most farmers do not recommend using any antiseptic spray at this point because it can cause dirt and debris to stick to the wound. Watch for bleeding later and you can apply wound spray later if needed.


Complications and Risk of Infection when Castrating Pigs and Other Livestock

Scrotal Hernia – The scrotal hernia occurs when part of the intestines rupture into the scrotum. Castrating at this point and not being able to repair the hernia can lead to death. Examining the scrotum for the presence of two testes and no other bulges is very important.

Bleeding – This is a rare complication from the castration of young livestock, although always a possibility.

Cryptorchidism – A condition where only one of the testicles descends into the scrotum. If discovered, mark the piglet or calf, kid or lamb and check later for the presence of two testes. The missing testicle might descend in a few days or weeks, at which time castration can proceed.

Flystrike – Timing is everything. Attempt to get all the castrating, docking of tails and branding, done before fly season to lesson the possibility of flystrike. Having a good antiseptic wound spray on hand is good practice.

Infection – Using sterile knives and instruments will greatly lesson the incidence of infection. Clean the area before castrating or docking of the tail. Do not apply antibacterial wound spray right after the procedure. The piglet might rub the wound in the dirt, causing dirt to stick to the wound. It is better to let it dry the first day and see if any treatment is needed after that.

Why Neuter Livestock?

Safety Reasons if not Being Used for Breeding –  Keeping unneutered male livestock is risky because they can be aggressive when they reach sexual maturity. Rams become rammy. They can actually really hurt someone. Boars are known to be very aggressive and those sharp pig teeth are not something to take lightly. Most people are aware of the danger associated with bulls so farmers learn how to castrate a bull. Bucks can also become very territorial while protecting the does in a herd.

Odor Control –  If you have ever kept intact male goats (bucks) on your homestead, you know the smell! The pungent odor lasts for weeks during the fall breeding season. Wethers are male goats that have been neutered. These goats can be kept for companions, meat, or in some cases, fiber.

Tainted Meat in Market Pigs – Unneutered boars can develop a bad flavor and odor in the meat from the testosterone hormone. Most producers raising pigs for meat castrate early in the piglet’s lives to reduce complications, bleeding, and infection.


Is Castrating Pigs and other Livestock Humane?

Most veterinarians agree that the earlier the castration takes place, the less pain is felt. Since we really don’t know first hand, we look at stress symptoms in the offspring. When the young animals are still nursing, the insult seems to be forgotten almost immediately. As the young animals grow and mature, the risks increase.

Some countries including Norway and Switzerland have banned castrating pigs, since 2009. The Netherlands has passed similar legislation, banning the use of meat from castrated pigs. This does not mean that there is an overpopulation of mature boars running around these countries. Instead, male piglets are raised to market weight before arriving at sexual maturity.

Other countries have discussed the mandatory use of anesthesia for castrating pigs and other livestock. Clearly, this has far-reaching economic and logistical implications for the producer. In the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that piglets be neutered at least five days prior to weaning. This provides the piglet with extra time to obtain antibodies necessary for healing, from the sow. Veterinarians can assist farmers by teaching proper methods. New pig farmers can also learn from other skilled and experienced farmers.


Castrating Lambs and Kids

Lambs and kids raised for market should also be neutered early. Delaying the procedure too late in the season increases the incidence of flystrike.

Lambs and kids being kept as pets or companion farm animals are not castrated as early as piglets. Letting the urethra in males develop longer, helps prevent urinary tract stenosis and blockage from calculi. In sheep kept in a spinner’s flock, letting the males mature longer before castrating will help ensure a longer life, free from urinary tract issues. Castrating at a later point might be carried out by a veterinarian, using anesthesia.

Have you castrated livestock? Please share relevant advice with us using the comment form below.

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