Since I receive a lot of questions about the Side Crusher, I asked the awesome folks at Premier 1 Supplies if they would send one to review three years ago, and they graciously agreed to do so. Other than receiving the Side Crusher, I received no additional compensation for this review.
And now, I’m ready to give my two cents on the Side Crusher. You see, I’m not a fan of people who do something once or twice and then write an article on it. Instead, I’ve used the Side Crusher for the past three years to see how I really feel about it.
Table of Contents
Why Use an Emasculator to Castrate Bucks
I decided to consider an emasculator after an uncomfortable visit to the vet for surgical castrations followed by a few years of banding goats. I had a vet castrate my first bucklings surgically because I’d read it was the most humane. But it turned out to be pretty gruesome.
In my second year raising goats, I switched to the banding method to castrate my bucklings, and it was stressful. You use a special tool to open up a tiny Cheerio-sized rubber band so that it will fit over the entire scrotum. Without blood flow, the scrotum and testicles die and fall off.
Although some goats handled banding quietly, that was not always the case. I’d feel horrible when some of the bucks would roll, scream, and isolate themselves from the herd after the procedure. In fact, banding can be a drawn-out ordeal because it can take weeks for the testicles to fall off.
When I made the switch to the Burdizzo, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick the entire procedure was and how quickly the kids get back to life as usual. Yes, the initial act of clamping and crushing, seems stressful, but pain is limited to the moment of contact. After crushing the spermatic cords, my newly wethered babies may walk funny for a few minutes, but they are usually acting normal within 20 minutes or less.
In addition to the fact that emasculators seem a bit more merciful, there’s also less risk for infection because it leaves the skin intact. No cutting and no blood means no risk of infection. When banding, on the other hand, it creates a wound at the site, even though you are not cutting anything. And open sores are a perfect hangout for tetanus or maggots.
The Difference Between the Burdizzo vs. the Side Crusher
When I received the Side Crusher, I was quite pleased with the design. It was easy to hold, and for those with smaller hands, I’d imagine it’s easier to clamp than the Burdizzo. In fact, I can close the Side Crusher easily using just two fingers and my thumb.
The main difference between the Burdizzo and the Side Crusher, however, is the size of the crushing area. The Side Crusher’s area is much smaller. Both the Burdizzo and the Side Crusher are meant to crush one spermatic cord at a time, but the Burdizzo could be used on a much larger goat or sheep than the Side Crusher. I have even used the Burdizzo to castrate an adult LaMancha buck.
The Side Crusher would not be suitable for castrating an adult buck due to its smaller size. In fact, although it works fine on two-month-old Nigerian dwarf kids, it was a little challenging when castrating two-month-old Katahdin lambs, which are considerably larger.
I can use the Side Crusher for both sides of the scrotum more gracefully than the Burdizzo. I’m able to approach the testicle from the side, rather than from the bottom of the scrotum. Although the Burdizzo is easy to use in my dominant hand, I have found it challenging when doing the opposite side of the scrotum. In fact, all of my Burdizzo failures were on the sheep or goat’s right side, which is on my left side when facing the animal, so I’m awkwardly crossing my forearms so I can hold the scrotum in my left hand while crushing with my right hand.
The Side Crusher, on the other hand, is easy to use in both dominant and non-dominant hands because it doesn’t require as much strength. Plus, it is designed so you can crush both spermatic cords by approaching the scrotum from the same side, if you prefer that to the awkward forearm crossing that is the only option when using the Burdizzo. Note that regardless of which one you use, you are still crushing only one cord at a time!
What to Expect During the Procedure
If you’ve never used an emasculator to castrate your bucks, be prepared for quite a bit of screaming. But that goes for any method of castration. Sheep on the other hand live up to the cliche, “quiet as a sheep,” even when being castrated by any method.
When using the Side Crusher, there will be plenty of protesting, but as soon as you’re finished and the buck is back with the herd, normalcy resumes. In contrast, a newly banded buck might fuss for hours after banding.
Some worry about accidentally cutting an antsy buckling with a Burdizzo during the procedure, if a kid jumps or kicks when the tool is clamped. I have heard of this happening a couple of times. The edges of the crushing area of the Burdizzo are a little sharp. It’s not sharp like a knife, so it’s not going to cut you if you touch it, but I can see how a kid could wind up with a cut if they kicked when the tool was clamped down on the scrotum.
I don’t think it’s likely to happen when using a Side Crusher because it has rounded edges in the crushing area. In general, we’re good at restraining kids during castration—fortunately, we’ve never had an accident like that in all of our years of using the Burdizzo.
What Happens After Using the Side Crusher
It’s normal to see some small indentations and bruising where the crusher did its job so don’t worry about those small marks.
If the Side Crusher was successful, your buck’s testicles will stop growing and start to shrink. You’ll know if the Side Crusher worked by measuring the size of the testicle before you perform the procedure, then recheck in a couple of weeks, and if it has not grown you’re good to go.
With that being said, the Side Crusher and Burdizzo both leave the testicles intact, meaning there will still be a bag with small non-functional testicles inside. This is completely normal, and if you use the Side Crusher later in a buckling life, the bag may appear larger than if castrated at around two months of age.
The reason I bring this up is for the 4-H members. Some shows do not permit wethers castrated through emasculation because they cannot easily determine if the wether is actually castrated (even though you know for sure).
The only thing I don’t like about using an emasculator is that when you sell goats, the buyer can get freaked out about the presence of a scrotum and testicles. Unfortunately there are even some vets who are not familiar with this type of castration and have told their clients that they had an intact buck even though the buck had testicles that were obviously MUCH smaller than an intact buck.
For this reason, you really MUST educate buyers about this method of castration. Show them the size of the scrotum and explain that if the buckling had not been castrated, it would be growing really fast. I also point out that I have never had a failure on both sides, so the most obvious sign of failure would be one testicle growing much larger than the other one.
When it comes down to it, Burdizzo and the Side Crusher both make quick work of castrating bucks with little trauma, no blood, and zero risk of infection. In our 10+ years of using the Burdizzo, we have had only about five or six failures, and in the three years that I’ve been using the Side Crusher, we have had zero failures, so the efficacy of the two tools seems comparable.