I noticed an inquiry a few weeks since as to the best time to castrate rams. My experience runs through fifty years. I have seen them castrated at all seasons of the year, with success in proportion to the heat or cold of the weather at the time of the operation. The colder the day the better. I once castrated an old ram when the thermometer was at 40° below zero; and an hour after and until healed, he paid no attention to it. In the operation I press the testes down, and cut the slit near the lower end, so that no blood can find lodgment; and just large enough to get the testis out; I then cut away the ligaments as usually done, and then draw the main cord out carefully, so as to pull it as far out as possible; the longer the cord is drawn out, the less bleeding. As I pull I wind it around my fingers and draw till it breaks. I never cut or tie the cord, and there is seldom more bleeding than just from the cutting of the skin. I never lost one in my life. —Peter M. Gideon
[The Cultivator & Country Gentleman / Vol. XL—No. 1155]
Peter M. Gideon's method for castrating a ram lamb will surely work (who can argue with 50 years experience) but it so happens that a lot of sheep ranchers don't try to grasp the slippery testes with their hands—they use their teeth instead.
The following video illustrates this technique very well.
Some readers might wonder why ram lambs need to be castrated. It is because the meat and the attitude of an uncastrated ram is not very good. Only a few (or one, depending on the size of the flock) "fully functional" rams are needed for breeding purposes.
There is another way of "emasculating" a ram lamb. It involves a tight rubber band that is stretched around the animal's scrotum. The band restricts blood flow, and the whole scrotum eventually falls off. Tails are docked in the same manner.
I listened to an online speech by Mike Rowe, star of the above film clip, in which he explained that he went to the ranch in that episode of "Dirty Jobs" with the belief that they were going to castrate using the bands. He was shocked when he got there and the farmer was pulling the testes out with his teeth.
The farmer said he had some bands and they could use them. But it was evident to Rowe that the banded rams were under duress for some time after the banding, while the rams that were cut went off and were happily grazing on pasture. As bloody and unsavory as it was, Mike Rowe came to the conclusion that castrating and docking tails with a knife was more humane treatment of the animals.
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