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Tail docking and mulesing

Tail docking and mulesing are husbandry procedures of sheep to prevent flystrike. Tail docking may also be required to meet some market requirements.

Reliance on mulesing to prevent flystrike can be lessened by a breeding program aimed at reducing breech wrinkle/cover. British breed and cross bred prime lamb mothers are unlikely to need mulesing. Information on breeding sheep with less breech wrinkle or cover is available on the MERINOSELECTAustralian Wool Innovation and FlyBoss websites.

Producers who plan to continue mulesing in the short-term should engage an accredited mulesing contractor or have undertaken training themselves to become accredited.

Best practice for mulesing and tail docking

Mulesing and tail docking should be performed when lambs are as young as possible, ideally two weeks after the end of lambing and before 3 months of age.

Mulesing and tail docking are both surgical procedures and care needs to be taken to ensure the best outcome.

To help ensure best practice, producers should pay attention to the following:

  • Reduce stress before, during and after the procedure by:
    • Good planning and preparation.
    • Having adequate numbers of well-trained staff to do the job.
    • Using well-maintained equipment.
    • Using low-stress stock handling.
    • Using pain relief products – Tri-Solfen®, Buccalgesic® and Metacam® are registered for use in sheep.
    • Reducing the time lambs are separated from their mothers.
    • Releasing lambs from the yards as quickly as possible into a well-shaded holding paddock with fodder and water available.
    • Avoiding immediately walking or moving ewes and lambs over large distances to paddocks.
  • Minimise dehydration by avoiding hot weather. Allow animals to rest in the yards after mustering and providing fresh water between mustering and the procedure and minimise the time animals are off water and perform the procedures in the coolest part of the day.
  • Minimise bleeding by using good technique and taking steps to ensure livestock are not hot at the time of the procedure. Always allow animals to settle and cool after yarding, handle them calmly and perform the procedures in the coolest part of the day.
  • Reducing the risk of infection through strict attention to hygiene, and use of disinfectants, minimising dust in the work area and providing adequate protection against tetanus.

Information on best practice techniques for tail docking lambs is available in MLA's Sheep Husbandry Guide.

The legal requirements are known as the Standards and can be found in The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep: