From 9 May 2021, new rules for tail-docking sheep come into effect.
Another lambing season is fast approaching and so it’s time to make sure you are up to date with tailing regulation changes! Here is a quick summary of what you need to know, but for more details please refer to the MPI Guide to the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations
Why are tails and tailing important?
It is vital to remember that sheep tails have a variety of important functions - in particular, the base of the tail is an anchor point for some muscles required for defecation. Therefore, tailing must only be performed if it is necessary to maintain good health and welfare. Most often the technique is used to help prevent faecal soiling, dag formation and reduce the risk of flystrike. The tail should be docked to no shorter than the distal end of the caudal fold. This is where the tail fold meets the wool.
How should tail docking be done?
It is recommended that lambs are docked between 12 hours and six weeks of birth. If younger than 6 months only 2 methods are acceptable. These are 1. Searing irons or 2. Rubber rings. The tail MUST be docked to no shorter than the distal end of the caudal fold. If older than 6 months, it must only be performed by a vet and pain relief must be used.
What are the consequences of non-compliance?
Penalties to be aware of:
- Inappropriate technique (anything other than a hot iron or rubber rings) - $500 fine.
- Inappropriate length (shorter than the distal end of caudal fold) - $500 fine (or $1500 for business) or court proceedings if a serious offence e.g. multiple animals.
- Inappropriate timing (must be done by a vet if over 6 months) - Criminal conviction and fine up to $3000 or ($15,000 for the business).