GÖNCÜ,S.,  SUCAK, M.G., GÖRGÜLÜ, M., 2011. Effect of Castration on Agressive Behavior and Fattening Performances of Simmental and Holstein Cattle. Ç.Ü.Z.F. Dergisi, 2011.26(1):25-30.

Effect of Castration on Agressive Behavior and Fattening Performances of Simmental and Holstein Cattle


 1Department of Animal  Science, Agriculture Faculty, Çukurova University, Adana/Turkey

2Department of Animal  Science, Institute of Basic and Applied Sciences, Çukurova University, Adana/Turkey


Castration of bulls used for reduced aggressive behaviors of males during fattening period. Reducing aggressive behavior increases the economic return and ease of handling of cattle during fattening operation. The aim of this study is to compare fattening performances and agonostic behaviour characteristics of steer and bull. Concentrate feed, maize silage, and alfalfa hay were offered to animals as Total Mixed Ration (TMR) three times a day with free access to fresh water all day. For each group, behavioural observations were recorded at 10-min intervals twice a week for a period of 1 h, recording the frequency of behavior and registered by scan sampling. The results showed that castration and breed had no effect on fattening performances of the groups. There were no significant influence of the breed on the standing, eating, drinking, fighting and flehmen behavior of animal (P> 0.05), but significant influence on the mounting (P < 0.05). The number of animals mounting was significantly higher (3.83) in intact Holstein male as compared to others (1.51). In contrast to these effects, castration had significant effect on all behavior of the animals except flehmen (P < 0.05).

Key words:Castration, bull, behaviour, agonostic fattening, performances

Simental ve Holştayn Sığırlarda Kastrasyonun Saldırgan Davranış ve Besi Performansı Üzerine Etkileri


Besicilikte kastrasyon saldırgan davranışları azaltmak için kullanılmaktadır.  Saldırgan davranışları azaltmak yaralanmaları ve hayvan idaresini kolaylaştırarak ekonomik kayıpları önlemesi nedeniyle kullanılmaktadır. Bu çalışmanın amacı, kastrasyonun besi performansı ve saldırganlık davranışları üzerine etkilerinin ortaya konulmasıdır.  Hayvanlara günde 3 kez konsantre yem, mısır silajı ve yonca kuru otu TMR olarak verilmiş, temiz ve taze su sürekli olarak önlerinde bulundurulmuştur.  Her bir grubun davranış özeklikleri 2 haftada bir saat başı, 10 dakika süreyle tarama metodu kullanılarak tespit edilmiştir. Deneme grupların besi performansları arası farklar önemli olarak saptanmamıştır. Irk etkisi ayakta durma, yem yeme, su içme, dövüş, flehmen ve tımar davranışları bakımından  farklı bulunmazken (P > 0.05) atlama (P < 0.05)davranışını önemli düzeyde etkilemiştir. Tosunlarda hayvanlarda atlama davranışı (3.83 kez) kastre olanlara göre (1.51 kez) daha yüksek olarak gerçekleşmiştir. Bunlara karşın, kastrasyon flehmen davranışı hariç diğer tüm davranış özelikleri üzerinde etkili olmuştur.

Anahtar kelimeler:kastrasyon, boğa, davranış, dövüş, besi, performans,


In recent years, many small-scale farms had to move toward the large-scale intensive fattening operations because of market demand and many other factors in Turkey. The difficulties of bull management and the demand for more desirable steer carcasses (Arthaud et al.  1969; Seideman et al. 1982) dictate that many facilities and techniques be included as an essential part of herd management on fedlots. Castration is used to eliminate testicular functionin male cattle (Bos taurus), thus, improving carcass qualityand reducing the frequency of undesirable sexual and aggressivebehaviors (Price et al. 2003). Reducing aggressive behavior increases the economic return tothe cattle producer by reducing the incidence of injury to bothanimals and their handlers, reducing bruised and dark-cuttingmeat at the time of slaughter (Romans et al. 1994),reducing damage to pastures, fences, and to feeding and handlingequipment (Seideman et al. 1982), even as conserving energy toenhance growth. By castrating a male animal, the functioning of the testicles is stopped by preventing production of male hormones so that the animal is unable to reproduce. This anabolic property of androgens, especially testosterone, influences the average daily gain of bulls to increase up to 19% than that of steers, with only a 3% higher average daily feed intake (Steen, 1995). Therefore, because of the superior growth rate and the more efficient feed conversion of bulls, Knight et al. (1999a)proposed postpubertal castration of calves, followed by a finishing period as steers, as a management approach to benefit from both the productive characteristic of bulls and the meat quality of steers. However, because of increased weight loss (WL) during the finishing period, steers could not retain the weight advantage obtained as bulls (Knight et al. 1999b). The androgenic steroid hormones also have an important effect on aggressive behavior (Bouissou, 1983). Castration reduces aggressiveness in males, whereas administration of androgens restores it (Ruiz-de-la-Torre and Manteca, 1999). As mentioned earlier, reducing aggressive behavior increases the economic return tothe cattle producer. However, in Turkey, Holstein and Simmental bulls are slaughtered at an average age of 15–18 months, and there is a lack of information concerning the effects of postpubertal castration (12–13 months of age) on animal performance and agonistic behavior during fattening period.

This study is to compare fattening performances and agonistic behaviour characteristics of steer and bull of Simmental and Holstein breeds.

Material and methods

This experiment was conducted at the intensive private fedlot in Adana (37.01oN, 35.18 oE) province of Turkey. The recorded average temperature and humidity, respectively, for this location were 15.66oC, 74.79% at 07:00; 24.27oC, 44.21% at 13:00; 22.29oC, 51.86% at 18:00 in the 7-week observation period April–May 2007. The dimensions of the pen for the experiment were 20 m × 30 m in size.Herd size was 70 head in each group. Group feeding was applied to experimental animals ad libitum in concrete tray mangers (28.5 m per group, i.e., 0.71 m per animal). Concentrate feed (2600 kcal ME and 180 g crude protein per kg), maize silage, and alfalfa hay were offered to animal as Total Mixed Ration(TMR three times a day (at 08:00, 11:00, 15:00) with free access to fresh water all day. Feed mixture included 30% concentrate feed, 60% corn silage, and 10% alfalfa hay.
Animals in the treatment groups were castrated using elastrators that shuts off the blood supply to the testicle and causes the scrotum to fall off (10 to 14 days). Control groups in this experiment comprised  intact males of the breeds. Animals were allowed a 30-d initial adaptation period before the beginning of the experiment to minimize pre-experiment environmental differences.
During the experimental period, the animals were weighed biweekly in the morning before silage and concentrates were fed. The vitamin complex (A, D, E) was injected intramuscularly once a month. Salt blocks were kept in the manger continuously and fresh drinking water was freely available to the animals.
For each group, behavioural observations were recorded at 10-min intervals twice a week for a period 9 times a day; 1 h at 07:00, 09:00, 10:00, 11.00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 17:00 and 19:00 h, recording the frequency of behavior (Table 1) and registered by scan sampling (Altman, 1974). An observer slowly walked along the alley behind the animals and recorded the activities.

Table 1. Description of the recorded behavior of experimental cows

Eating Number of animals located in the feeders with their heads put through the feeding rack
Drinking Number of animals drinking without any behavior
Resting Number of animals lying without ruminating activity
Standing Number of animals standing without any movement (including body movement) or behavior
Fighting when bulls pushed vigorously head against head (horning and butting evaluated as one group)
Flehmen Number of animals that sniffs the urine or the perineum, then extends the head, dilates the nostrils, and lifts and curls the upper lip
Mounting Number of animals that head on the back of another animal or  number of animals that on the back of another animal
Grooming Number of animals that clean or maintain each other’s body or appearance

 This experiment was designed according to the 2 x 2 factorial arrangements in a completely randomized design to investigate the effects of castration (bull and steer) and breed (Holstein and Simmental).

 Results and discussion

The results showed that castration and breed had no effect on fattening performances of the groups (Table 2). This can be attributed to similarity of the castration age of bulls, which were castrated after puberty.  Adams et al. (1996) reported that the differences in performance between bulls and steers are mainly manifested after puberty as a consequence of a greater production of anabolic hormones by the testes, which is attained at an age of 6–9 months with 250–380 kg body weight in Holstein bulls (Lunstra et al. 1978). Androgens are responsible for the development of male sex organs and secondary sexual characteristics. Moreover, androgens promote muscular development as nitrogen retention increases (Galbraith et al. 1978;VanTienhoven, 1983).

Table 2. FatteningPerformance Parameter of the groups

Breeds (B)



Effects (P<)

Sex (S)








IBW 203.70±6.15 208.08±5.40 208.15±2.81 206.83±3.00




FP 232.40±6.02 235.38±2.22 233.13±9.95 233.50±9.74




FBW 455.00±12.40 458.85±10.88 450.00±5.66 461.95±6.05




ADWG 1.08±0.05 1.07±0.04 1.04±0.02 1.09±0.02




IBW: Initial Body Weight; FBW: Final Body Weight; ADWG: Average Daily Weight Gain, FP: Fattening period B: breed S:Sex

Knight et al. (1999b) have proposed postpubertal castration of bulls (13 months of age) as a means to maintain the performance advantages of intact males (greater growth rate and feed efficiency) until 13 months. However, other studies (Champagne et al. 1969; Worrell et al. 1987) reported decrease in weight loss as a result of castration if they were castrated before puberty. Similarly postpubertal castration-associated weight loss was greater than the others.  This findings consistent with the results of Jago et al. (1997)and Fisher et al. (2001). The reduction in performance could be explained by the immediatetissue trauma, inflammation (Obled, 2002), and probably psychological(pain) stress in response to castration and the loss of anabolic(testosterone) steroid (Knight et al. 1999). Bulls have higher daily gain than steers normally (Seideman et al. 1982), but this is not case in the present study. These finding are consistent with those shown bymany researchers (Glimp et al. 1971; Ford and Gregory, 1983; Keane, 1999; Knight et al. 1999a,b) who reported that the effect of castration on performance is independent of the breed. Fisher et al. (2001) also indicated that 14-month-old cattle castrated had a slower growth rate than uncastrated cattle.  Researchers also have found that castration reduces aggressiveness and sexual behavior, improves animal handling, and reduces carcass bruising of bulls (Price et al. 2003). Behavioralobservation results of this study are summarized at Table 3. We found no significant influence of the breed on the standing, eating, drinking, fighting and flehmen behavior of animal (P > 0.05) but significant influence on the mounting (P < 0.05). The number of animals mounting was significantly higher (3.83) in intact Holstein male as compared to others (1.51). In contrast to these effects, castration had significant effect on all behavior of the animals except flehmen (P < 0.05) and the interaction between breed and treatment was not significant except for grooming that was the highest for the castrated groups of both breeds. These findings showed similarity with the results of Mach et al. 2009) who reported that the flehmen response in castrated animals decreased from 30 to 121 d (from 1.8 to 0.4 times/5 min per pen), remaining constant in control group animals (2.4 ± 0.33 times/5 min per pen). Standing and resting behavior in the castrated groups was higher than the intact groups (Table 3).

Table 3. The analyzed results of behavioral observation of the groups

Breeds (B)



Significany level










Standing 20.07±2.45 15.10±1.78 19.70±1.93 11.92±1.47




Resting 34.25±3.54 22.42±2.85 29.62±3.02 18.90±2.50




Eating 10.08±1.30 7.00±1.02 9.14±0.88 7.21±1.06




Drinking 2.76±0.24 1.90±0.23 2.72±0.25 1.33±0.14




Figthing 1.62±0.42 3.70±0.74 2.05±0.43 4.40±0.73




Mounting 1.57±0.29 3.83±0.70 1.28±0.18 1.69±0.23




Flehmen 1.50±0.50 1.66±0.16 1.00±0.69 1.66±0.19




Grooming 3.10±0.46 1.57±0.35 4.82±0.63 0.80±0.27




 Generally, related to agonistic interactions, the incidence of animal fighting per pen was greater (P < 0.01) in bull groups (4.05) than in castrated groups (1.83). Mounting and flehmen behavior was also higher in intact groups than the castrated groups. However, grooming activity of the castrated groups (3.96) was higher than the intact groups (1.18) (P < 0.01). The results of this study showed significant similarity with the results of researchers (Jago et al. 1997; Katz, 2007) who reported that castration of bulls reduces aggressive and sexual behavior. Price et al. (2003) reported that the immune castration significantly reduced butting and sparring to levels observed in steers. Also Mach et al. (2009) indicate that Burdizzo castration of prepubertal bulls resulted in a reduction of agonistic and sexual behavior from 60 to 121 d after castration. In contrast, Robertson et al. (1994) did not report any altered postures or behavior during the first

2 h after castration of calves, castrated with Burdizzo at 6, 21, or 42 d of age. Also, Ting et al. (2003) reported that Holstein bulls surgically castrated at 11 months of age, had greater proportion of standing and lower of resting during the first 6 h after castration, compared with control group. Keane (1999) also reported that the feeding system, such as grazing and feedlot, could influence the magnitude of the castration-associated weight loss because of a differential reduction in ADG intake, which would be related to a different need of movement of cattle to get their food. However, Fisher et al. (2001) indicated that the grazing time is reduced after castration, but walking time is not affected. Hence, if movement is not affected by castration, the castration-associated weight loss may be independent of the feeding systems. Differences between the research results can be attributed to castration age of the animals, castration methods, and postcastration period.


The results of this study show that except standing all other behavioral differences were determined statistically significant. Generally, related to agonistic interactions, the incidence of animal fighting per pen was greater in bull groups than in castrated groups.The average daily weight gain (ADWG) between the breed and castration groups were not statistically significant. The results revealed that castration decreased aggressiveness of both breeds without affecting daily gain. These results may suggest that castration may improve herd management in feedlot.


The authors thank the Sahbazlar Intensive Beef Farm for their contribution.

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