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Article

Unmitigated Surgical Castration in Calves of Different Ages: Cortisol Concentrations, Heart Rate Variability, and Infrared Thermography Findings

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Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
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Department of Animal Science and Industry, College of Agriculture, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
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Department of Statistics, College of Art and Sciences, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
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Department of Animal Sciences, College of Agricultural Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
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Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
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Department of Anatomy and Physiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Alison Small
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2719; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092719
Received: 27 July 2021 / Revised: 5 September 2021 / Accepted: 14 September 2021 / Published: 17 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pain Mitigation for Farmed Livestock)
In the United States, castration is a common husbandry procedure utilized in the cattle industry. Despite castration being painful, it is commonly performed without the use of analgesia, one reason being the lack of available approved analgesics in the United States for use in alleviating pain associated with castration in cattle. Additionally, if pain mitigation is used, it is more often provided to older animals as there is a notion that younger animals experience pain to a lesser degree than older ones. The aim of this study was to characterize physiological responses to unmitigated surgical castration in calves of varying ages in terms of cortisol concentration, heart rate variability, and changes in eye temperature. Overall, our results indicate that the measured physiological responses to castration differed between age groups and changed over time post-castration. Younger calves showed a different response pattern than older calves for many of the variables measured suggesting that the response to castration-induced pain may be age-specific. For example, the youngest calves had lower cortisol and average eye temperature as compared to the oldest calves. Additionally, many variables showed a differential response to castration-induced pain, as compared with simulated castration, thus suggesting physiological indicators that could be targeted in future development and validation of analgesics for alleviation of pain associated with castration in cattle.
The objective was to characterize physiological responses to unmitigated surgical castration in calves of varying ages. Thirty male Holstein calves of three ages [<6 w (6W); 3 m (3M); 6 m (6M); n = 10] underwent a simulated castration treatment (SHAM) followed 24 h later by castration (CAST). For both treatments, heart rate variability, eye temperature, and cortisol were measured over time from treatment to specified end points to capture the acute response period. Interactions between treatment and age (p = 0.035) and time and age (p < 0.001) were noted for cortisol. The 6W calves had lower cortisol compared to 6M calves at SHAM and CAST. Cortisol of 6W calves decreased from peak to pre-treatment levels faster than 6M calves. An interaction between time and age was reported in squared differences of inter-beat-intervals (RMSSD; p = 0.02) and high-frequency power (HFP; p = 0.05), whereby both responses decreased in 6W calves during the sampling period which was not seen in 3M and 6M calves. Average eye temperature (AET) differed by age (p = 0.0018) whereby 6W calves had lower AET than 6M calves (p = 0.0013) regardless of treatment and time. The findings suggest that responses to unmitigated surgical castration seem to be mediated by the autonomic nervous system in an age-related manner. View Full-Text
Keywords: calves; castration; cortisol; heart rate variability; infrared thermography calves; castration; cortisol; heart rate variability; infrared thermography
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MDPI and ACS Style

Bergamasco, L.; Edwards-Callaway, L.N.; Bello, N.M.; Mijares, S.H.; Cull, C.A.; Rugan, S.; Mosher, R.A.; Gehring, R.; Coetzee, J.F. Unmitigated Surgical Castration in Calves of Different Ages: Cortisol Concentrations, Heart Rate Variability, and Infrared Thermography Findings. Animals 2021, 11, 2719. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092719

AMA Style

Bergamasco L, Edwards-Callaway LN, Bello NM, Mijares SH, Cull CA, Rugan S, Mosher RA, Gehring R, Coetzee JF. Unmitigated Surgical Castration in Calves of Different Ages: Cortisol Concentrations, Heart Rate Variability, and Infrared Thermography Findings. Animals. 2021; 11(9):2719. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092719

Chicago/Turabian Style

Bergamasco, Luciana, Lily N. Edwards-Callaway, Nora M. Bello, Sage H. Mijares, Charley A. Cull, Stacy Rugan, Ruby A. Mosher, Ronette Gehring, and Johann F. Coetzee 2021. "Unmitigated Surgical Castration in Calves of Different Ages: Cortisol Concentrations, Heart Rate Variability, and Infrared Thermography Findings" Animals 11, no. 9: 2719. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092719

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