Project number:                73102

Lead contractor:               FAI Farms

Start & end date:              September 2009  – February 2010

 

The Problem:

The practice of castration, using a tight rubber ring to eliminate indiscriminate breeding amongst maturing lambs, is widely carried out by sheep farmers in the UK. Castration of lambs is considered necessary for several interconnected reasons, all related to husbandry and productivity.  The process cause pain and discomfort to the lambs which may be reduced by changing practice.

 

Project Aims:

The aim of the project is to review the existing literature on the practice of short scrotum castration.

 

Approach:

Review scientific literature.

 

Results:

A substantial amount of research has been carried out documenting potential advantages and differences in growth rates and carcass composition between short scrotum, entire’s and wethers.

Studies into fertility show varied results and are not sufficient to provide conclusive evidence of infertility to producers at present. Most studies examining fertility have been of systems which castrate lambs at 4-6 weeks of age, as is standard practice in some countries, and thus do not accurately mirror systems in the UK where legal castration is carried out significantly earlier, within 7 days of birth.

Taste trials have demonstrated the acceptability of uncastrated lambs up to puberty and compared to wethers. No trials have included short scrotum lambs or evaluated at what age meat quality might start to be affected by male hormones.

It is clear the standard castration causes significant acute and chronic pain. Some research had compared short scrotum castration to standard rubber ring and found significant reductions in pain responses. The method has the potential to provide a benefit in terms of improved welfare of lambs which can be correlated to improved neonatal survival.

In order that the method might be recommended to farmers some further work is required to evaluate its potential suitability for UK systems and to identify the advantages and disadvantages that its use could bring.