I used to be a knife man!!! I don't know about any one else but if I have good help holding tails I can cut one in about 15 seconds... I bought a callicrate bander....that is the way to go on feedlot calves 500 lbs and up smaller calves and show steers I still use the knife.... I don't like banding very small calves due to missed seeds... Really causes hard feelings when a kid gets to the fair and the calf is a stag because of a walnut sized lump of testicle that got left by a rubber band.
I ued to be a "knife only" guy but with help becoming more and more of an issue, I have gone to using bands on new born calves. On calves that just aren't good enough at weaning, I still use the knife. The burdizzo should never have been invented and it's inventor should have received jail time. When we were feeding cattle, it was always a sick feeling to check a steer on arrival and to find that he had been pinched and done poorly. The only thing worse than cutting a calf that has been pinched with Burdizzo's first is trying to cut a bull calf that someone has implanted with Ralgro. PLEASE>>>> NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER give a male calf Ralgro if he is not being castrated at the same time. If you have ever tried to castrate one of these, you will know what I am talking about. I am not sure what causes this, but everything seems to grow together and it is extremely hard to get a good job without excessive bleeding. These calves seem to also suffer more and are off feed longer as well. Normally castrated calves by the knife seldom looked back and went onto feed easily. As long as I live, I will always remember hearing my father groan when he went to cut a male calf and realized it had received Ralgro previously. It really is hard to describe, but I guarantee you will know it when you see one.
On a related note, you aren't doing your heifers, yourself, or anyone else who owns them, any favours if you plan on breeding them, if you implant with Ralgro. One implant is not real bad..... two is bad ... three implants is total disaster..... and NONE is the best. I had lots of experience with this when we were feedloting cattle. I know of one purebred breeder who routinely implants his heifers with Ralgro, and I for one, will not buy breeding stock from him. Thye may be just fine, but I don't see the need to have to find out if they are or not.
If you get both golden nuggets banding is as farmboy says low stress and easy - esp if you are doing all the work alone (ie hard to get a good tail holder when the holder is the cutter ;D) - if you don't get both golden nuggets it is not that swell for the kid with the steer. I make sure both nuggets are present and below the band -- give a shot of tetanus and off we go.
I don't like cutting because I rarely have help, I think it hurts more (the steer and possibly the cutter esp if he kicks and the knife slips and cuts you) and flies...JMO
WE ALWAYS CLAMPED EM' AND IT WAS A HASSLE. WHEN WE BANDED ONE, WELL WE NEVER LOOKED BACK AND TODAY, I BANDED MY FEEDER IN 2 MINUTES (clapping) WE CLAMPED ONE LAST YEAR AND GOT ONE "NUGGET" DONE AND THEN HE KICKED THE CLAMPS OFF THE OTHER AND PASSED OUT :-\ THE YEAR BEFORE, WE CLAMPED AND BANDED BUT NOW WE BAND ALONE O0
We band at almost day one. In fact have to hid the good bull prospects from the nephews because they'll band anything in sight.
I did notice a very bullish looking "steer" when we were chasing the feedlot cattle a couple of months ago. One must have slipped through!
Be sure and give a long acting tetanus shot when banding the calves. Lately we have been splitting the sac open after we put the band on, that lets all the fluids drain out, reduces swelling and it falls off sometimes as soon as a week. There is a new one called the XL Bander that will work on up to a 800# calf I think. It works kind of like the old emasculators but has a much thicker band and larger opening so it is easier to get both testicles in.
We cut with a blade exclusively. The best way to do it that we've found is:
Take the sack off with a pair of game or surgical scissors
Use an emasculator to cut the cords - they look like a pair of pliers and crimp the cord just above the blade
These tools take away the injury risk to human and calf that you have with a knife. We give every calf 5 cc of penicillin at the time of cutting. Haven't any significant problems on a single calf in over ten years now of cutting about 100 bull calves a year. We do use a calf table to flip them. We can work about 200 calves total (bulls and steers) in less than 4 hours using this method.
The bleeding is really not an issue. It's more of a perception fear than reality. I worry more about infection. I guess infection risk might be greater with cutting if you were doing it in wet, cold, muddy conditions, but we don't really have to deal with that. I've just seen (and helped fix) enough messes from banding that I don't like it. Of course the banding probably wasn't done right.
I'm sure they don't like it much, but they don't really fight it or become stressed out over it. They usually resume grazing within minutes of being turned out. I'd rather cut them and get it over with them having a band irritate them for a while, but both methods are obviously widely used.
In comparison, they usually throw a bigger fit over being dehorned than they do cut.
A friend of mine went out west to work cattle as a vet student - she was horrified that the calves were cut without benefit of lodocaine - in about 1 minute the calves were castrated, vaccinated, dehorned, and branded (all in a chute) - who ever she was working with said go ahead and lidocaine the next one - well it took about 3 min to lodicaine and another 5 for it to work and by this time the calf was so stressed it was recumbant and open mouth breathing -- just so she couldn't say it was an "n of one" he had her do it again - moral of the story - it depends
calves that are not used to being handled do better when skilled people do all their work in a short period of time
calves that are handled daily do better with different approaches
and of course it depends on your labor force
I am sure that castration hurts - but like manythings it is pretty momentary
re bleeding - usually not an issue - if you have a calf bleed out from castration it istime to look for a bleeding defect in your herd
Not to be too vivid, but males should put their self in the place of the bull calf. If you had to have it done to you, do you want it to be quick and over with a little bit of blood or do you want to walk around with something swollen to 2 or 3 times its normal size till it dries up and fall off................