Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Animal Science (PhD)

Degree Level



Animal Science


Jeremy G. Powell

Committee Member

Elizabeth B. Kegley

Second Committee Member

Jason K. Apple

Third Committee Member

Sami Dridi


Behavior, Growth, Health, Zinc Castration


Two experiments were conducted to investigate a 1 mL intratesticular zinc (100 mg Zn) injection administered into each testicle at weaning (Z) and its effects on growth, health, behavior and testosterone. In the first experiment, beef bulls were assigned randomly to treatment at birth: 1) surgically castrated at birth (S; n = 37) or 2) Z (n = 37). Testicular thickness differed by day (P < 0.01) for Z. Testosterone concentrations were greater in Z by d 77 and remained so through d 280 (P = 0.02) compared to S. Zinc injected calves were heavier at the trail’s conclusion (P ≤ 0.04), had greater ADG overall (P < 0.01), heavier hot carcass weight (P = 0.01), and greater lean muscle area (P = 0.01) compared to S; but a lower marbling score (P < 0.01). Yield Grade, dressed carcass yield and fat thickness were similar (P ≥ 0.14). Zinc injected calves had greater haptoglobin (Hp) concentrations (P < 0.01). Zinc injected calves had greater concentrations of white blood cells on d 1 and 2 and greater concentrations and proportions of neutrophils on d 1, 2 and 3 (P < 0.01). Conversely, S had a greater percentage of lymphocytes on d 1, 2 and 3 and a lower ratio of neutrophils to lymphocytes during that same time (P < 0.01). Zinc injected calves spent more time on their side or sternum on d 1 and more time on their side on d 2 while S spend more time standing during that time (P < 0.01). During d 3, 4, 5, and 6, Z stood more while S laid on their sternum (P < 0.01). In trail 2, beef bulls were allocated randomly to treatment one week post weaning: 1) banded (B; n = 42) or 2) Z (n = 39). Body weights were similar (P ≥ 0.39) but ADG improved for Z compared to B (P = 0.05). Testosterone concentrations were greater in Z compared to B (P ≤ 0.02). Testicular width in Z differed by d (P < 0.01). Zinc castrated calves spent more time on their side compared to B one day post castration (P = 0.03) until d 3 and 4 where B spent more time on their side (P ≤ 0.02). Banded calves stood more the first two days (P ≤ 0.01). On days 3, 4, 5, and 6, Z stood more (P ≤ 0.01) while B were on their sternum (P ≤ 0.03). Banded calves had lower Hp concentrations compared to Z (P ≤ 0.01). Total white blood cell concentrations, proportions and concentrations of neutrophils, and proportion of lymphocytes were greater in Z compared to B on d 1, 2, and 3 (P ≤ 0.01). There was no interaction between treatments over time for IL1β, IL6, and TNFα expression (P ≥ 0.83). The findings in both studies indicate that intratesticular Zn injections at weaning can improve growth performance and some carcass attributes but produce a heightened inflammatory and immune response and cause discomfort. Injecting zinc, as formulated and administered in these trails, does not result in complete castration of beef calves at this age and therefore cannot be considered a true castration alternative.