Castration of male cattle has been shown to elicit inflammatory reactions and acute inflammation is initiated and sustained by the participation of cytokines. Sixty continental x beef bulls (Mean age 12 +/- (s.e.) 0.2 months; Mean weight 341 +/- (s.e.) 3.0 kg) were blocked by weight and randomly assigned to one of three treatments (n = 20 animals per treatment): 1) untreated control (Con); 2) banding castration at 0 min (Band); 3) Burdizzo castration at 0 min (Burd). Samples of the testis, epididymis and scrotal skin were collected surgically from 5 animals from each group at 12 h, 24 h, 7 d, and 14 d post-treatment, and analysed using real-time PCR. A repeated measurement analysis (Proc GLM) was performed using SAS. If there was no treatment and time interaction, main effects of treatment by time were tested by ANOVA. Electrophoresis data showed that by 7 d post-castration RNA isolated from all the testicle samples of the Burd castrated animals, the epididymis and middle scrotum samples from Band castrates were degraded. Transitory effects were observed in the gene expression of IFN-gamma, IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-alpha at 12 h and 24 h post treatment. Burd castrates had greater (P < 0.05) testicular IFN-gamma mRNA levels compared with Band and Con animals, but lower (P < 0.05) testicular TNF-alpha mRNA levels compared with Con animals. Band castrates had greater (P < 0.05) testicular IL-6 mRNA levels than Burd castrates at 12 h post-castration. Burd castrates had greater (P < 0.05) testicular IL-8 mRNA levels than Band and Con animals at 24 h post-castration. In the epididymis, Burd castrates had greater (P < 0.05) IL-6 mRNA (both at 12 h and 24 h post treatment) and IL-8 mRNA (12 h post treatment) levels compared with Band and Con animals; Burd castrates had greater (P = 0.049) IL-10 mRNA levels than Band castrates at 12 h post-castration. Banding castration caused more inflammatory associated gene expression changes to the epididymis and scrotum than burdizzo. Burdizzo caused more severe acute inflammatory responses, in terms of pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expression, in the testis and epididymis than banding.