Data for "Pain in the weeks following surgical and rubber ring castration in dairy calves" Nogues, Emeline; von Keyserlingk, Marina A. G.; Weary, Daniel M.
Many male dairy calves are castrated when reared for beef production, but for dairy breeds the assessment of the longer-lasting pain associated with this procedure has received little scientific attention. In this study we assessed 2 methods: surgical (n = 10 calves) and rubber ring (n = 11). All calves were castrated at 28 d of age using multimodal pain control. During the 8 wk that followed, we recorded wound healing, local inflammation, body weight, milk and calf starter intake, lying time, and wound-directed behavior. Surgical wounds were fully healed on average 4 wk after the procedure, but only 1 calf in the rubber ring treatment fully healed within the 8-wk study. Inflammation was greater after rubber ring castration; skin temperature in the area around the lesion was 1.7°C (±0.35) higher than for the surgical treatment. Compared with surgically castrated calves, those castrated by rubber ring gained less weight over the study period (on average 11.9 ± 5.1 kg less), a difference due in part to lower intake of calf starter (on average 1.8 ± 0.6 kg less). Calves in the rubber ring treatment spent less time lying down (on average 4.2 ± 1.2% fewer scans per day) and licked their lesions more frequently (on average 16.0 ± 3.3 more licks per day). We conclude that the rubber ring calves experienced more pain in the weeks following the procedure and thus recommend that surgical castration be favored for preweaning dairy calves.