How To Band a Calf

“El Torro No Mas!”

There are several ways to turn a bull into a steer.

A bull is a semen shooting, fully intact, male bovine animal.

A steer is a bull who no longer has balls.

Sorry for saying balls.

I love writing about farm animals.

Balls.  Balls.  Balls.

There is more than one way to remove balls.  There is more than one way to remove horns too… but that’s a different post.

CASTRATION

Why would you want to castrate your bull?

  1. It might make him nicer when he’s older.  I’m told fully intact bulls can be a handful.  Steers are usually a bit easier to work with.
  2. It will make him taste better.  I do not necessarily agree with this.  I don’t know.  I have never eaten a bull, but I’ve been told it tastes like beef.  Many folks proclaim that if you don’t castrate your bull the meat will be gamey.  It has something to do with hormones and testosterone.
  3. So he won’t try to breed his mama.  If you have limited space and your bull is in the same pasture with his mom, you could have a problem when he’s about 11 months old.  You may want to either separate him from mama or be sure he doesn’t have any working male parts.

Now that we have decided to remove his manhood, we need to decide on the technique.

We have used 2 Methods:

  1. Call the vet.  This involves a mandatory “house call” fee, a knife, a doctor and a bucket.  I’m not sure what he does to the calf, but I’ve seen what he pulls out of the poor guy and emptied the bucket.  I’m glad I’m not a baby boy calf.  Ouch.  This approach is best in spring or fall when the flies are not out in droves.  If flies end up depositing eggs in the incision it is gross and horrible and disgusting and you will be paying your vet to come out again.  Gag.
  2. Band him.  This involves a rubber band and nothing else.  If you already have the $20 tool – it’s basically free.

Today I’m going to tell you all about Choice #2:

BANDING

We have banded 3 calves on our farm…. ourselves… without shots, without headgates, without cattle chutes, without vets.  All by ourselves in fields with nothing but a few kids as farm hands.

What is Banding?

Banding is a simple method used to remove testicles.  It involves a tool (used to open the rubber band) and a rubber band.  Basically, you put a strong, tiny rubber band around the scrotum and it cuts off the circulation to the balls.  They die and fall off within a couple of weeks.

Castrating animals is just another part of farm life that isn’t fun but must be done.

Is it humane?

Well, I think it’s just as humane as slicing them or crushing them (What?!) and probably less alarming.  I’ve done quite the research on banding and have come away a bit shocked and validated that banding is the way to go on a small homestead.  I have also come away astonished that people actually band their dogs.  Really?  An animal who can reach his own testicles?  I can imagine a number of reasons why banding a dog is a bad idea.  Ack.

But as far as sheep, goats and calves go – banding seems to be the favorable approach.

  • There’s less likelihood of infection.
  • It’s less expensive.
  • It doesn’t involve a knife or a doctor.
  • It’s fast & easy.
  • Anyone can do it.

The great news is it’s no big deal (unless you’re the calf, goat-kid or lamb).

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it’s probably less traumatic on the animal too.

What You’ll Need to Band Your Stud:

  1. This tool.  It’s called a castrate bander.  They carry them at Tractor Supply.
  2. Bands.  You’ll need 1 band for each animal you are banding.  Unfortunately, they come in packs of 100, so you’ll have 99 left over for next time.
  3. A bucket of feed.  This should keep your little guy happy and still while you do the deed.
  4. A wall.  We set the bucket of food along a wall (a gate or run-in will work too).  With the calf nestled against a wall we can keep him stationary so the person doing the “banding” can work.
  5. A brave soul.  Unfortunately, I have been lead-bander around our homestead for years.  DH is stronger, so he usually holds the calf still.  I get the lovely duty of dealing with balls.

Since I have done this – I’m pretty sure anyone can.   Banding calves falls into the category of “things I never thought I’d ever do” and on the other hand is totally righteous that I know how to do it.  I’m amazing.

Let’s band a calf!

 

FYI: These are pics intermingled from 2 different bandings.  You are about to see some cow balls.  4 of them.

WHEN TO BAND A CALF

It is recommended to band a calf when they are between 2 and 6 weeks old, preferably not during fly season.  Calves are easier to work with when they are younger.  There is a less chance of infection if the weather is cooler and the flies are gone.

We have banded calves older than 6 weeks.  Sometimes you can’t hit the magic, ideal window.  We waited one year because our calf was born in late spring.  It was summer fly season & we didn’t want to band him during the peak, fly-maggot-eeeew period.  So we waited until fall & he did fine.  Another calf of ours we purchased at a sale barn & he hadn’t been banded so we had to band him later in life.  He was fine too.

Whatever the case, you can band at 2 weeks or 4 months & he will probably be fine.

BAND AT THE RIGHT LOCATION IN THE RIGHT POSITION

You can do the job with the calves lying down or standing up.  We always let them stand.

First, go get your calf & lead him to the chosen banding location.  If you calf is wearing a halter, you can just tie him to something while you work.

We generally don’t put halters on our calves.  They grow so stinkin fast that it doesn’t take long before you have a cow wearing a halter that is 2 sizes too small.  Then you have the problem of catching them and getting the thing off (which is way too tight at this point because calves grow like weeds).  Getting a tight halter off of a wriggly calf is miserable.  In order to release him from his bondage you must go tighter to get it off.  This is not fun.

So – no halters on calves at our place.  If we want to lead train them or work with them we will sometimes put a halter on briefly.  We take the halter off when we’re done.

Once the calf is tied up (or not) and standing against a wall (to hold him still) you are about ready to roll.  We put a bucket of grain in front of thier face to distract them & keep them still.  There is usually a person (or maybe a couple of kids) holding the calf still while 1 person takes care of the banding.

OPEN THE BAND & INSERT THE TESTICLES

Here is the tool we use at our farm:

You can see the little green band on the nubs of the instrument.  To open the rubber band you just squeeze the grips.

Like this.

Once you stretch out the rubber band you are ready.  Make sure the prongs are pointing up.  This will make it easier to get the band off the tool & around the scrotum.

Me banding Norman while DH holds him still.

Drop the testicles down through the rubber band.  Be sure you have BOTH testicles beneath the band or it won’t work.  Yes, you are going to have to do a little “manhandling” of the testicular area…. so go ahead and “feel” around and be sure you have 2 balls beneath the rubber band.

You will need to get involved in order to get the rubber band to come off the nubs (the prongs of the castrating tool).  Just closing the prongs will not make the band slide off.  You just have to scooch the band upward and it will snap into place.  We have used 2 different calf castration tools and both of them needed a little “encouragement” to get the band off the tool.

Once the band is in place you are done.  Some folks give the calf an injection of Tetanus Antitoxin when they band thier calves.

The bottom part of the sack and the testicles will get hard in a day or two.  They will fall off in a couple of weeks.

 

Do any of you watch “The Goldbergs”?

It’s a fairly entertaining show about a Jewish family. Back in the 80’s his family was the first in his neighborhood to get a camcorder.  He used it to film various, entertaining, everyday events in his young life.  The sitcom is based on the videos he took as a child.  The end of every episode (that I’ve seen) contains actual footage of his old recordings.

The main character (Adam Goldberg) is a geeky kid living amidst his high-strung family.  He’s nerdy, quirky and funny.  His curse-word of choice is, “Balls.”

If school is still in session even after mountains of snow, Adam exclaims, “Balls!”

If he hurts himself, “Balls!”

If he gets mad, “Balls!”

Which is in itself hilarious to me…  but has new meaning now that Deadpool has a band around his scrotum.

What does Deadpool say?

“Balls!”

It’s pretty funny.

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XO,

Candi

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