The Importance of Tail Docking Lambs

Ever had a rotten tooth pulled? I have, and it smarts a bit. But would I rather that tooth was still there, or that it abscessed and dumped toxins into my bloodstream? Not really. And that’s essentially the case in favor of docking most lambs’ tails shortly after birth. “But Bill!” you protest. “A lamb’s tail is natural, and your rotten tooth was the product of years of bad human decision-making -- namely your decisions to eat chocolate and not floss often enough.” Actually the lamb’s tail is just as unnatural as a rotten tooth. We put it there, millennia ago. Shortly after humans domesticated sheep, we started to choose ones with long, fat tails because we liked eating fat in those days. As with nearly everything that we have done to alter animals through selective breeding, we took it a little too far, and arrived at the point where the vast majority of sheep cannot lift the full length of their tails. Then we bred sheep to have wool rather than hair. Wool is much more absorbent than hair, which is mostly self-cleaning. As a result, there’s a constant risk that the wool on the tail can become soiled with urine and dung and remain moist. This creates the perfect breeding ground for flies. Here's the mess that this sheep made because it couldn't lift its heav

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Tail Docking Lambs

  1. Good Article – sums up things well. I’d suggest leaving the tails slightly longer than that even – evidence on tailing length here in New Zealand suggests that you need to be at least below the fourth tail bone to avoid nerve damage. We used a gas powered hot iron at a older age 4-6 weeks as you can identify the spot to go for easier, evidence shows less of a growth check compared to rings, and lower mortality rates. Can be tempting to go to high with rings too, but as long as you are aware of the issues rings are fine. For years we used rings with few problems too. We breed in (back) short tails so tailed lambs less and less.

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