Steps to Castrating Bull Calves

Trophy steers are perhaps the truest symbol of the Wild West. They are majestic icons of the breed we raise and in the words of Col. Eddie Woods, the humorous and spot-on legend in the Texas Longhorn industry, they “attract more attention than a dead man.”

Star Flight – a magnificent steer bred by Star Creek Ranch

To grow one of these awesome Texas Longhorns, a bull calf must be castrated. This is not the only reason for castrating bull calves. Other reasons might include:

  • If raised for beef, steers can be kept with females without fear of impregnating cows.
  • Steers don’t fight with each other like bulls do—even if you are able to house them separately from your cows.
  • There is much less chance of a steer trying to cross fence lines; they are quite content to stay at home.
  • They are very easygoing and easy to handle for vaccinations and other work.

Plus, you may just get a call asking for a young steer or two from a new landowner who doesn’t want to get into raising calves. I like to keep a few young steers running with my cows for this reason. And I really enjoy having one or two of the big boys to show off when guests come for a visit. Even though I try to keep a few big ones in my herd, I get requests for those also and it is nice to know they are going to a home where they will be appreciated for their beauty.

Also, even if you sell your steer calves at market, I think you get a better price for them if they are castrated. That is one less headache for the buyer. And easier on the calf if done earlier.

Three mature steers crossing the pasture at Star Creek Ranch

So back to the item at hand – castrating your bull calves.

There are several ways to safely and effectively castrate a bull calf. The main thing to remember is the younger it is done, the easier on you and the bull calf. I am only going to discuss one way of cutting a bull calf in this article. This is the way I castrate all my bull calves because I think it is the safest and most humane.

First, we have our candidate – a three-month-old bull.

Instruments used:

Newberry castrating knife

White emasculators

Lidocaine local anesthetic

Step 1. Prepping the bull calf

Although I generally castrate my bull calves in a standing position, I put this one on the calf table for better visibility.

Be sure to check that both testicles are descended and easily accessible.

Step 2. Lidocaine is injected directly into spermatic cords and end of scrotum

Believe me, the calf will appreciate this.

Step 3. The castrating knife is used to open the scrotum

The Newberry castrating knife is used to open the scrotum by inserting it through the scrotum from side-to-side below the testicles and then pulling away from the calf.

Step 4. The spermatic cord is cut with the white emasculator

This will give you good access to both testicles.

The spermatic cord is exposed by blunt dissection so that it can be cut with the White emasculator.

The placement of the emasculator is important. It must be completely above the testicle and turned so that the crushing side is toward the animal and the cutting side is toward the testicle. I was taught a somewhat crude saying to help remember which way to turn the emasculator and that is, “nut to nut.” As you can see, the nut of the emasculator is toward the testicle (nut) of the animal. That is a quick way to always know you have the cutting blade in the correct position.

Repeat for the other side. I push the emasculator toward the calf to take the pressure off the spermatic cord and leave it clamped in place for 30-60 seconds depending on the size of the calf. I find that the bleeding from cutting the scrotum has stopped by the time I am finished, and there is rarely any bleeding from the spermatic cord.

Of course, since I used a local anesthesia on the calf, he is not too uncomfortable and goes back to nursing as soon as he gets back with his dam. I will leave him on a clean grassy area for 10-15 minutes to keep an eye on him before moving him back with his dam. And it is always good to watch for any swelling over the next few days, which I find extremely rare.

Step 5. Give the calf a tetanus antitoxin

And finally, I give all my bull calves a tetanus antitoxin before they are moved off the table.

I especially like to use this method on a steer that is going in the show ring because a show steer is supposed to have a “cod,” which is the scrotum filled with fatty tissue. If a steer is castrated with a band placed above the testicles, there will be no scrotum remaining.

Want to Learn More? Talk to Darlene!

Don’t be intimidated by castrating your bull calves. With the correct instruments and local anesthesia, it is an easy process. Then you will be set to raise a tremendous trophy steer! If you want to learn more, let’s schedule a visit or just have a good conversation on the phone. I love to “talk Texas Longhorns.”