Castration of adult rams
Ratification Date: 29 Jul 2016
The castration of adult rams must be treated as a major surgical procedure and be performed only by a veterinarian. Appropriate perioperative care including analgesia must be provided.
Castration of adult animals is a major surgical procedure that involves significant disruption to soft tissues, vessels and nerves and all the inherent risks of surgery including pain, blood loss, shock and infection.
Castration should be performed as early as possible, following development of the maternal bond, using pain control. Routine castration of rams after weaning is uncommon in Australia, however exceptions to this are:
- Stud flocks where males may be left entire up to 12 months of age in order to assess phenotypic characteristics for selection purposes. Note that castration for this purpose is not recommended as by this age, secondary sex characteristics are already well developed and castration will not reverse these;
- Pet rams owned by hobby farmers and not castrated at an early age.
All castration techniques cause pain and most of the studies comparing techniques (surgery versus banding or rings) have been done in lambs less than 6 months of age1,2. Little work has been done on alternatives to surgery in the older ram3.
Other situations where more complex surgical intervention may be required in entire adult rams include:
- animals where ring castration has been unsuccessful, with no scrotum but a subcutaneous testis or testes
- undescended testes
- unilateral castration of a valuable ram for medical reasons.
General anaesthesia or local anaesthesia are required. In either case, appropriate perioperative analgesia must be provided, such as systemic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics. A triple crush emasculator or other satisfactory method of haemostasis is obligatory where surgical castration is performed.
Industry defines adult sheep as “two-tooth” or 12 months of age. While this policy is specifically aimed at mature rams of 12 months or more, AVA policy4 is that castration of lambs over 3 months of age should be treated as a major surgical procedure and performed by a veterinarian using appropriate anaesthesia and analgesia. AVA policy4 allows for lay castration under 3 months of age provided the operator is skilled and pain relief is provided.
Other relevant policies and position statements
- Mellor DJ and Stafford KJ. Acute castration and/or tailing distress and its alleviation in lambs. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 2000; 48(2):33-43
- Melches S, Mellema SC, Doherr MG et al. Castration of lambs: A welfare comparison of different castration techniques in lambs over 10 weeks of age. The Veterinary Journal 2007; 173:554–563
- Barber S, Gonsalves A, Conley M and Fisher A. Adult ram castration: production and welfare implications, IN: Proceedings of the Australian Sheep Veterinarians Annual Conference, Albany, 2013:180-185 Tail docking and castration of lambs and sheep. AVA policy: Tail docking and castration lambs and sheep
Date of ratification by AVA Board 29 July 2016