9.1 Castration

It is common on farms in the Pacific to have a number of young and mature bulls running with young and mature females. This uncontrolled breeding will prevent improvement in milking quality and breeding efficiency. The safest way to achieve control of breeding is for all male calves that you don't want for breeding to be castrated before they get to mating age. For ease and safety of castration, the younger a bull calf is castrated, the better. Therefore castration is done for the following reasons:

inferior quality animals are prevented from breeding,

inbreeding is prevented,

castrated males are more easy to handle than uncastrated males,

beef from castrated males is preferable to meat from bulls.

Bull calves can be castrated from about one month of age. Provided the calf is young enough, any farmer has the skills to castrate his own bull calves.

There are several methods of castration, but the easiest and least risky if it is performed when the calf is young, is open castration, where the testicles are removed from the sac through incisions made by a sharp knife or a razor. Points to note are:

always sterilise the knife by boiling before castrating,

castrate in the early cool of the morning, so that the calf feels less stress and can be observed for problems during the whole of the day,

with the assistance of a helper, cast the calf on its side in a non dusty area

make an incision into the testicle from halfway down the sac and completely to the bottom of the sac, so that the wound can freely drain when the calf is standing after the operation,

protrude the testicle from the incision, separate it from the surrounding tissue, and using the blade of the knife, and keeping tension on the testicle and starting as high up the cord to the calf's body, scrape the blade up and down over the cord until it separates.

do not cut the testicle off at the cord or the bleeding will be excessive. Scraping acts to roughen the separated cord and reduce bleeding.

repeat for other testicle

If available, rubber rings are a very easy and effective method of castration for use on small calves.

9.2 Dehorning Calves

There are no arguments for having horned cattle:

Cattle with horns will dominate and bully cattle without horns,

horn less cattle are easier to handle and are less dangerous,

hornless cattle do not bruise each other, an important factor in animals to be slaughtered,

separating a calf from a horned cow is more difficult and dangerous than from a cow without horns.


When dehorning:

calves should be dehorned as soon as the horn buds appear,

it is most easily done when calves are about three months old,

until you are more experienced, dehorning older animals may require the assistance of a veterinarian or paravet,

do not dehorn after five months else bleeding is severe and a cavity is made in the head of the calf at the base of the horn,

do not dehorn if calves are sick or weakened,

the older the calf, the more stress it suffers from dehorning,

dehorn in the morning during the cool of the day.


There are several techniques. The easiest is to use a sharp knife with a blade about six cm. long. With one or two helpers, restrain the calf on the ground. Cut around the base of the horn bud about half a centimetre from the base of the bud itself, and cut out the bud making sure that the half-centimetre ring of skin is also removed with the bud. Repeat for other side.

Figure 7. The dehorning method for young calves

9.3 Cattle Identification

If you only have a few cows and can identify them and all of their offspring by name, there is probably no need to identify your cattle in a more permanent way. However a breeding programme can not be introduced into larger herds unless animals can be individually numbered..

Figure 8. Ear tags are an effective method for identifying young and adult cattle

The preferred and most practical method at the moment, is the use of colour coded and numbered ear tags. These allow cows of one generation, or the offspring of a single bull, to have tags of the same colour, with individual animals within that colour-coded group identified individually by number

9.4. Training Heifers to the Milking Bail

Heifers which have not been handled or have never been put into the milking bail are usually extremely difficult to handle, particularly when they have just calved and must be milked for the first time.

Well before the calving day, it is important to train a heifer to be familiar with entering the bail and being handled in the same way as she will be when she is milked. It is also much easier to handle and train a heifer when she is still small, rather than waiting until she has a mind of her own and is too big for one person to handle.

If she has been trained properly before calving, it is easy to bail her up and begin milking her as soon as you want. Therefore it is important to begin handling a heifer when she is still a calf At that age she should get used to being handled all over and having her udder gently massaged.

You should first train a heifer in being restrained by tying her up to a tree in the shade for a short while every day from about six months of age. Give her some feed while she is tied and use a soft rope tether. Then handle her and brush your hands all over her, especially in the area of the udder until she becomes used to it.

When she is about a year old and still not too big, she should be trained to enter the bail head. You should put some concentrate or green feed on its other side of the bail head before encouraging her to get into it. The first time you attempt this, you and another person may need to join hands behind her and gently and quietly push her up into the bail. Close the bail head and allow her to stand there and eat the feed for about ten minutes or so before releasing her. This should be done every day for as long as necessary until she will enter the bail and stand there quietly without having to be forced.

After she is trained to the bail, always milk her from the same side so that she gets used to being milked from that side.

teach her to stand correctly for milking and by tying her leg back to expose the udder on the milking side, you can train her to prevent her kicking over the milking bucket.

If her leg on the milking side is forward you can usually get her to put it back by pushing her away from you on the hip on that side. She will usually change her leg position when this is done. You can use your own foot to push back on her leg at the same time to give her more persuasion.

With the leg back, use a 112 inch rope securely attached to the post behind her on the wall on the other side, pass it around the milking side leg above the claw. Gently tie the leg back about six to ten inches behind the other and fasten it there with a running hatch so that the rope between the leg and the wall has no slack in it, but can be easily released using the slip-knot

You may then get her used to having her udder and teats handled by rubbing her flank and massaging her udder. She will object initially, but will accept it if you are gentle and firm and gradually increase the amount of touching from the first time.

If you take the time to train her well before she has calved, she will be easy to milk and handle when she is put into the bail for the first time. If you do not do this, milking her in the beginning will be difficult and you will get little milk from her until she gets used to the process of milking.

These principles must be remembered when doing this training:

the heifer must always be handled quietly and gently so that she is not afraid of entering the bail,

tie the calf close to the other side of the bail head so that she will enter it willingly and be content when she is there,

put some feed in front of the bail head so that she can eat when milking is going on,

stop strangers and dogs from being around the bail at milking time,

keep to the same milking routine every day and always milk her from the same side.