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What age is best for castration?
After initial epiphyseal changes have occured at around 12 months and before puberty — at 16-20 months. We currently recommend 15 months unless:
• the particular llama is starting to act like a stud or a hormone-crazed teenager in general (in which case we recommend castrating immediately)
• the particular llama has undergone a period of malnutrition or illness (in which case we recommend delaying castration for at least as long as the period of compromise lasted, or until the llama shows initial signs of hitting puberty).
If you peruse the internet, you will quickly find that many people still recommend the age of 24 months as minimum.
Two studies addressing castration age have been undertaken. One (our own) is still ongoing, the other was an outgrowth of a basic nutritional trial. The nutrition trial involved intact males and some llamas castrated before 8 months. Misinterpretation of that trial has led to adament reactions against any castration prior to two, three or even four years, claiming that castration prior to those times causes certain conformational and soundness flaws ("post legs" and "dropped pasterns") and subsequent breakdown.
Our own ongoing study has instead shown that castration prior to two years is highly desirable for management reasons, specifically, because later castration results in a llama who must be managed much as if he were still intact, and because castration after 24 months results in a much longer "cooling down" period with some degree of retained behavior (not what people are usually after when they suddenly have an unanticipated, emergeny reason to castrate "Fluffy" ASAP). We have not observed that castration after initial epiphyseal changes causes or is in any way associated with the named flaws, nor with early unsoundness.
We have observed that delaying and avoiding castration in llamas who have the genetic propensity to lax pastern ligaments and/or early unsoundness does not prevent their inherited flaw(s) from manifesting, although failed weight control after castration (translation: human management error) may accellerate appearance of "dropped pasterns" and other unsoundnesses with a genetic component.