At ‘Til The Cows Come Home, most of the calves that come into our care are male. Why? Because in the dairy industry, male calves are usually considered “waste” as they do not result in profit. While female calves go on to be used for their milk or meat, it’s standard practice in Australia for male calves to be killed with a hammer to the head because they are unviable. As a result, ‘Til The Cows Come Home rescues as many male calves as we can before it’s too late.
But isn’t a male calf a bull? Aren’t bulls hard to care for? These are common questions we get a lot. Yes, bulls can be harder to keep as pets due to their temperament and size, however, a bull is not the only type of male bovine out there. The male calves that are adopted through ‘Til The Cows Come Home are almost always steers. A steer is a male bovine that has been desexed at a young age. As a result of the castration process, steers physically and behaviourally mature differently to bulls. While bulls tend to be more aggressive and muscular, a steer’s temperament and physical appearance more closely resembles that of a cow. This can be attributed to the lack of testosterone in a steer after they have been desexed. Therefore, steers can make excellent pets as they are more docile and easier to manage.
The behavioural and physical contrast between bulls and steers is why it is important to desex male calves in order for them to be adopted. It can be harder for us to rehome a bull because not many people have the experience or land size often needed to adopt bulls. Additionally, bulls can be harder to rehome because they generally should not be adopted into an environment with another female in sight. When a female cow is around, a bull can become aggressive towards other males and may break through fencing to get to the female.
On the other hand, steers are very likely to be adopted as they have a more docile temperament and are not affected in this way by the presence of other bovine, including females. It’s easier for steers to be friendly and gentle with humans – we’ve received so much feedback from our adopters saying how sweet and affectionate their steers are. As an example, Carla, one of our adopters, has been able to halter train her 800kg steers! Carla shows her steers a lot of love, and in turn, they are friendly and easy to manage.
Pictured above: Carla and her adopted steers.
Steers make great pets and have a significantly higher rate of adoption than bulls, which is why ‘Til The Cows Come Home encourages the castration of male calves born on dairy farms. By increasing adoption rates through desexing male calves, fewer calves will be abandoned or killed.
At ‘Til The Cows Come Home, it’s our mission to save as many farmed animals as we can, including bulls. However, by desexing male calves to become steers instead of bulls, we can save so many more lives through rehoming, fostering and adoption. Want to know more about the difference between bulls and steers? Check out our blog about it here.