While doing research for an article I came across information about bull castration. Most bulls are castrated when they are very young with various methods. I wanted to know if this castration was necessary, or if it was a result of high density farming, ie feedlots. Would bulls with more space and a more natural environment still require castration? The answer is that bulls are castrated so that they put on more fat. Bulls that are not castrated spend more time looking for a mate and fighting than eating and putting on weight for a juicy steak.
Angus McIntosh, a Western Cape farmer who runs a biodynamic farm, was kind enough to shed some light on the situation. He says:
The most important reason for castration is that a bull does not get fat and you need fat for flavour. In addition to that bulls like to fight and of course have a well developed libido and so spend their time sniffing and hassling the cows whilst the oxen just go on their way getting fatter.
A common practice is to put an elastic on the calf at birth. I don’t like this because then you lose the benefit of testosterone which gives the animal a bulkier form than being an ox from birth. Ideally the bull is castrated at 5 months and then has a few months on his mother to recover before he is weaned.
The way we castrate is by using a rectal immobiliser to that they cannot move. We then use a tool called a Burdizzo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burdizzo to crush the vas deferens.
What the industry wont tell you is that they don’t mind getting bulls into the feedlots as the growth hormones http://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/products/130_163380/productdetails_130_163790.aspx that they inject into every single animal in every single feedlot sterilise the animals and so you eventually get fat oxen without the hassle of castration.
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