Painful Procedures
August 2023

Tail docking lambs

Lambs’ tails are docked to reduce their risk of flystrike.  A long tail allows for dags which attract the flies increasing the risk and severity of flystrike in the summer.  

Lambs’ tails can be docked up to 6 months of age and must be done with a rubber ring or hot iron.  After 6 months it must be done surgically by a veterinarian.

The tail must be long enough to cover the vulva (and similar length in males). This protects the vulva from sun damage.  Below this level can be painful.  While we want the tails shorter to prevent flystrike, tails too short can also increase risk of flystrike and can also cause uterine prolapses after lambing.

Lambs should get their clostridial vaccinations before tail docking to ensure they are protected from tetanus.



The animal welfare regulations allow rubber ring castration in sheep, goats, and cattle until 6 months of age.  After this time, it is required to be surgically done by a veterinarian.  Often the testes will be too big to be rubber ringed successfully before they reach 6 month of age and should instead be done surgically by a veterinarian. It is a lot easier for us to surgically castrate than to fix a rubber ring job that has gone wrong.  When using a rubber ring you need to ensure both testes are below the ring and make sure none of the teats are included (yes, like humans the males have nipples too). Horses and pigs must be castrated by a veterinarian with the necessary pain relief given.

If you are unsure about any castrations or tail docking we can do this from any age.  These are painful procedures, and it is better to be done right.


Did you know mostcows are born with horns? There is a very common procedure in the dairy farmingindustry to prevent the growth of horns in calves called disbudding. It is doneby removing the horn buds from the calves between two to six weeks of age. It isa less invasive procedure at a young age when the horn buds have not yetattached to the skull, rather than when the horns are bigger.

The main reason fordisbudding calves is to prevent injury to themselves and other animals. Thereis also a great risk of injury to anyone handling the animals. Horns also makeit difficult for veterinary professionals and handlers to carry out basicprocedures safely.

Using localanaesthetic is a legal requirement when disbudding calves. Pairing this withsedation makes it quick, pain free and as minimally stressful for the calves aspossible. It is also a great opportunity for the calves to receive theirvaccinations, check navels and get rings put on. Once the local anaesthetic andsedation has kicked in, we use an electric hot iron. We also recommend calvesreceive long-acting pain relief as well which helps to speed up the recoveryand healing process for the calves. It is important for small blocks to havegood facilities such as a pen or yards with shelter over top so the calves towake up from sedation safely.