Earlier this year new legislation for tail docking of sheep came into effect. The rules are simple, but this may mean making some changes to how docking is carried out on your farm.
Docking and castration can only be done when sheep are under 6 months old. Animals over this age must be docked or castrated by a vet and given pain relief. The tail must not be docked any shorter than the end of the caudal tail fold. These are the two skin folds you can see on the underside of the tail. The tail should be long enough to cover the vulva in ewe lambs and the same length in rams.
Either a rubber ring or hot iron must be used for docking. You can no longer place a rubber ring on the tail and then cut the tail with a knife. It is essential that you treat your lambs with a fly strike treatment that has persistent activity, especially if you are using rubber rings. This will protect the lamb from fly strike as the docking and castration wounds heal.
From what we understand, this new legislation will be enforced through inspection of lambs at the works. A failure to comply with the new rules can result in fines of $500 -$1500 for an individual up to $7500 for a business. Talk to your vet if you need help in navigating these changes on your farm.
Ann Sutherland (BVSc)