Tension banding castration of cattle is gaining favour because it is relatively simple to perform and is promoted by retailers of the banders as a humane castration method. Two experiments were conducted, under tropical conditions using Bos indicus bulls comparing tension banding (Band) and surgical (Surgical) castration of weaner (7–10 months old) and mature (22–25 months old) bulls with and without pain management (NSAID (ketoprofen) or saline injected intramuscularly immediately prior to castration). Welfare outcomes were assessed using a range of measures; this paper reports on some physiological, morbidity and productivity-related responses to augment the behavioural responses reported in an accompanying paper. Blood samples were taken on the day of castration (day 0) at the time of restraint (0 min) and 30 min (weaners) or 40 min (mature bulls), 2 h, and 7 h; and days 1, 2, 3, 7, 14, 21 and 28 post-castration. Plasmas from day 0 were assayed for cortisol, creatine kinase, total protein and packed cell volume. Plasmas from the other samples were assayed for cortisol and haptoglobin (plus the 0 min sample). Liveweights were recorded approximately weekly to 6 weeks and at 2 and 3 months post-castration. Castration sites were checked at these same times to 2 months post-castration to score the extent of healing and presence of sepsis. Cortisol concentrations (mean ± s.e. nmol/L) were significantly (P < 0.05) higher in the Band (67 ± 4.5) compared with Surgical weaners (42 ± 4.5) at 2 h post-castration, but at 24 h post-castration were greater in the Surgical (43 ± 3.2) compared with the Band weaners (30 ± 3.2). The main effect of ketoprofen was on the cortisol concentrations of the mature Surgical bulls; concentrations were significantly reduced at 40 min (47 ± 7.2 vs. 71 ± 7.2 nmol/L for saline) and 2 h post-castration (24 ± 7.2, vs. 87 ± 7.2 nmol/L for saline). Ketoprofen, however, had no effect on the Band mature bulls, with their cortisol concentrations averaging 54 ± 5.1 nmol/L at 40 min and 92 ± 5.1 nmol/L at 2 h. Cortisol concentrations were also significantly elevated in the Band (83 ± 3.0 nmol/L) compared with Surgical mature bulls (57 ± 3.0 nmol/L) at weeks 2–4 post-castration. The timing of this elevation coincided with significantly elevated haptoglobin concentrations (mg/mL) in the Band bulls (2.97 ± 0.102 for mature bulls and 1.71 ± 0.025 for weaners, vs. 2.10 ± 0.102 and 1.45 ± 0.025 respectively for the Surgical treatment) and evidence of slow wound healing and sepsis in both the weaner (0.81 ± 0.089 not healed at week 4 for Band, 0.13 ± 0.078 for Surgical) and mature bulls (0.81 ± 0.090 at week 4 for Band, 0.38 ± 0.104 for Surgical). Overall, liveweight gains of both age groups were not affected by castration method. The findings of acute pain, chronic inflammation and possibly chronic pain in the mature bulls at least, together with poor wound healing in the Band bulls support behavioural findings reported in the accompanying paper and demonstrate that tension banding produces inferior welfare outcomes for weaner and mature bulls compared with surgical castration.