Guide to Lamb Tail Docking

The majority of farmers will dock a lamb’s tail in order to avoid the build-up of faecal matter which, if left, could cause health problems, an expensive veterinary bill or even death. Therefore it is a process that is regularly performed, although some breeds will not require docking and it is stated in law that tail docking may only commence if not doing so could cause problems in later life.

To reduce the amount of stress and discomfort the animal will experience, which is very little, farmers will dock a lamb’s tail as soon as possible after birth. The law states that a rubber ring, the most common method, may only be used without an anaesthetic during the first week of life – so this is the method many will use. And at this stage it is extremely important that a farmer is aware of the positioning of the ring – it must be placed at such a place that there is sufficient tail to cover the vulva of female sheep and the anus of a male sheep. The majority of farmers will have a large amount of experience of doing this, but some may choose to have veterinary assistance when they first do it.

After the first week of life, an anaesthetic must be used when using a rubber ring or similar device. If the process is left until the lamb has reached three months of age, it is against the law to do so without an anaesthetic and it also illegal to do so oneself; in this instance a veterinary surgeon must do so. It is vital for farmers or anyone who keeps livestock to be aware of the various rules and regulations as any mistake could result in prosecution.

The process of actually docking the tail is a relatively easy one – all that’s required is a castration ring and, if necessary, a castration tool.

  • Place the castration ring over the tool, allowing it to stretch so the ring will fit over the tail.
  • Place the band in the necessary position, following the regulations discussed above.
  • Ensure the band is tight enough to restrict circulation and then let your lamb return to normal.