Castration Is a Profitable Management Tool

– Amy Radunz, Ohio FSBI Coordinator (Source: Kent C. Barnes, Oklahoma State University)

In recent weeks we’ve discussed a variety of management tools a producer can utilize to maximize the return orvalue of the calf at weaning. Some producers may conclude that kind of calf produced, and management doesn’t matter, since market fluctuations and confounding effect of various characteristics on price per pound make it difficult for cattlemen to distinguish the true value of their efforts.

Is castration worth its effort? Oklahoma State University conducted a study to determine if the grading of calves for breed type, frame size, muscle, gut fill, condition, uniformity, and health had impact on the price of the calf. Sex of calf, presence of horns, number per lot, average weight, and sale price were also recorded on each of the 15,731 lots that were included in the study. The auction barns were surveyed in eastern and southeaster Oklahoma during the month of October, 1997.

Steers made up 42% of the lots sold with bulls at 16% and heifers at 42% . Bulls sold for $3.56/cwt less than that of steers, heifers at $10.65/cwt less. The lower price received for the bulls is due the reduced performance experienced with these animals subsequent to castration.

Timing and type of castration can also affect post-weaning gain. For producers considering preconditioning their calves before marketing them, postweaning gains can be a critical component to profitability of that venture. Oklahoma State University also did a study to investigate the type of castration as well as the age of calf on post-weaning growth rate. At two to three months of age the calves were either banded, surgically castrated or left intact. At weaning, the intact bulls were banded to determine the effect of late castration on weight gain after weaning. In the 50 days after weaning calves that were banded at weaning gained less weight than bulls that were castrated at 2 to 3 months of age.

Some producers may be tempted to sell bull calves because “bulls grow faster than steers” and therefore weigh more at weaning. While there is no question that bulls generally are heavier at weaning time, research has repeatedly shown that steer calves, given growth promoting implants at about 2 months old, will weigh the same as the intact bull and consistently receive the higher selling price per pound.

The castration and other management practices are important to increasing the value of calves sold from your operation. Many cattle producers can and will perform the management procedures such as castration, dehorning, implanting, and blackleg vaccinations. These hours of hard work are certainly well rewarded at calf marketing time.