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Three Tips for Banding Calves After Birth

banding bull calves

The ideal time to band bull calves is at birth. At this time, banding causes very minimal discomfort and carries almost no risk of tetanus because the calf has not had exposure to tetanus causing bacteria in the environment. While many farms successfully band and tag at birth, for others that's not always possible due to personnel or management constraints.

When banding does not take place at birth, it is important to keep a few points in mind:

  1. As the bull gets older, the impact of pain and stress from castration increases. In larger bulls, castration can negatively impact average daily gain for up to 60 days. Bulls castrated at a later age also carry a lifetime increased risk of Bovine Respiratory Disease (shipping fever). Ideally, castration should occur no later than 4 months of age.

  2. Pain management is cheap and readily available. While not necessary for bulls castrated in the first week of life, oral anti­inflammatories at the time of banding in older bulls improves feed intake for the next 48 hours compared to bulls that receive no pain management. Talk to your veterinarian about pain management options for your herd.

  3. Banding after the first few days of life carries a risk of tetanus. We see at least a couple cases of tetanus each year in our practice area. To reduce the risk of tetanus, vaccinate with an appropriate product (CDT or 8­way Clostridial) at the time of banding. When allowed by the management system, administering a dose two to six weeks prior to banding with a booster at the time of banding is ideal.

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