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Castration, disbudding and tail docking - not nice but necessary! - Overview

Removing lambs’ tails soon after birth has advantages for the sheep and for the farmer.

  • Tail docking can help prevent dirty faecal dags forming under the tail.
  • Dags attract the blowflies that cause flystrike, so by helping keep the back end clean, tail docking helps prevent flystrike.

The docked tail needs to be long enough to wag! This may surprise some farmers, but if the tail is left long enough to be raised, it lifts the supporting tissue around the anus and, like a cow’s tail, directs any diarrhoea away from the body. But if the tail is amputated close to the body, any diarrhoea runs down the back end, soiling the skin and fleece. So the tail should be left long enough to cover the vulva or the equivalent length in males (to the end of the bald bit on the underside of the tail)..

  • The most humane method of tail docking is use of rubber rings on young lambs - preferably only 7 to 10 days old.
  • The risk of infections like tetanus is reduced if the ewe has been fully vaccinated against clostridial diseases.
  • The alternative techniques (cutting with a hot cautery blade or crushing to remove tails) are more painful and more likely to lead to problems like infections.