|Gelding the John Mule
by Marlene Malcher
A john [male] mule that is not castrated can be much more dangerous
than a rank horse stallion. We used to castrate our john mules at one or two
months of age, but we had several problems with bleeders and in one case the
mule eviscerated and died. Now we wait until they are at least 5 or 6 months old
before calling out our vet. By this age the stomach wall has strengthened and
the danger of a tragic outcome is greatly reduced. On the other hand, if you put
it off much beyond the age of 9 months, the john can become difficult to handle.
Dr. Suzy Burnham of Texas A&M advocates "anesthesia with amnesia,"
because a mule remembers pain for a long time and will associate it with the
people who inflicted it, whether intentionally or not. Some mules blame their
present pain on the person they remember handled them last. My husband Jerry
often receives this treatment after a young mule's castration, because he
usually has the job of presenting the youngster to the vet for the sedation
needle. Some mules forgive him quickly, others carry a grudge for a long time.
Find a veterinarian who has taken time to learn about the differences
between castrating a donkey or mule compared to a horse. An experienced
veterinarian will use sutures with mule or donkey colts, which are more prone to
bleeding than horse colts. This knowledge can make the difference in whether or
not the castrated colt survives.
Another difference is in sedatives for mules or donkeys. If the vet says
these animals are no different from horses, look for another vet. A mule
generally requires more sedative to put him down before he may be operated on.
The last colt we castrated required three times the anaesthetic that a horse
colt would have needed. Even then he was down only long enough for the surgery,
and up immediately after.
Malcher breeds and raises mules on her family's farm
Malcher's Mammoth Mules
in central Alberta. This article appeared in the
2002 issue of
PO Box 2067, Cedar Rapids IA 52406-2067
Phone: 319-362-3027 Fax: 319-362-3046
22 November 2002
25 October 2011 last revision