Comparison of the effects of weaning and castration when conducted separately or in combination on the behaviour of crossbred beef cattle
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The objective of the present study was to evaluate the behavioural effects of Burdizzo castration of crossbred beef calves when weaned and castrated separately (castrated 8 weeks after weaning) or in combination. Over two consecutive years a total of 111 Limousin × Simmental male calves were included in the study. At an age of 7 months calves were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatment groups and either weaned in week-8 (Bull-8; N = 27); weaned in week-8 and castrated in week 0 (Cas-8; N = 26); weaned in week 0 (Bull-0; N = 29); or weaned and castrated in week 0 (Cas-0; N = 29). The behaviour of the calves including the number of vocalisations and time spent feeding, lying and standing/walking was recorded during the first 3 days of week 0. Bull-8 and Cas-8 did not show any vocalisation activity during the observation period. In contrast, Bull-0 and Cas-0, showed more than 3 calls/10 min period on the first day, which decreased steadily until the third day in both groups. In all groups the time spent feeding increased from day 1 to 3. Bull-8 animals did not vary their standing/walking and lying behaviour, but Cas-8 increased the time spent standing/walking and decreased lying. Bull-0 decreased the proportion of standing/walking from approximately 60 to 40% and increased lying from 23 to more than 30%. A similar rate of change with standing/walking decreasing from 70 to 50% and lying increasing from 12 to 20% was noted in Cas-0. Compared to bulls, castrates spent more time standing/walking and less lying. From week-8 to 0, Bull-8 and Cas-8 gained about 700 g/d, whereas the 2 other groups gained more than 1.000 g/d. Average daily gains from week 0–3 of Cas-8 were lower than in the other groups (P < 0.05). In conclusion, Burdizzo castration did not cause considerable effects on the behaviour, whereas weaning had a pronounced impact. The combination of both management procedures did not intensify the behavioural responses. Therefore, it can be recommended for economical reasons (i.e. labour costs) to conduct castration and weaning in steer production systems at the same time.