The manner in which lambs are managed will have a big influence on castration decisions.

Ram lambs have the potential to record higher levels of daily liveweight gain than both wether and ewe lambs.

The positives from finishing male lambs entire reduces as the season progresses, with issues starting to emerge in finishing lambs to a desired fat cover, while marketing issues are a contentious topic and are well documented.

Handling rams

For example, the butcher and wholesale trade is less inclined to handle ram lambs from August onwards and if this is the target market, then there is no question but to castrate.

The Eid al-Adha festival, which this year takes place from Monday 19 July to Friday 23 July, is a target for some farmers to have ram lambs ready for sale.

Live export interest has been variable in recent years, but factories have also shown an interest in the days leading up to the festival in slaughtering lambs and leaving testicles attached to the carcase for niche specialist orders.

Good balance

A good balance for many farmers is leaving strong lambs entire and castrating later-born or lighter wether lambs that will remain on farms later into the season.

Some farmers will assess weights and weaning and any lamb under a certain liveweight will be castrated.

Castrating stronger ram lambs that will finish in a short period of time with preferential treatment is likely to hamper performance and a better option here is to segregate lambs and introduce concentrate supplementation if deemed necessary to get the required level of fat cover.

Farm infrastructure also has a big part to play. Lambs should only be left entire where they can be grazed on their own, ideally from August onwards.

Castration procedure

At this stage of the year, the burdizzo method of castration is the only option and this can be carried out before lambs reach three months of age.

Rubber ring castration cannot be used after lambs reach seven days of age.

With regards health concerns, lambs should receive a clostridial disease vaccine in advance of castration to protect against tetanus in particular.

A blowfly preventative treatment should also be applied if not already administered, as lambs will tend to spend a longer period lying in the shade post-castration and therefore will be at a greater risk.