Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Shepherdess Notes: Docking Tails



We still have just the two lambs. I am not sure what the other three ewes are waiting for, we have had perfect weather for winter lambing. I assume they are waiting for a winter storm to roll around. The two lambs we do have, were moved outside into the barnyard. I think they are enjoying the extra space to bounce around in. 




Before moving them, (when they are easier to catch) we put the band on their tails for docking.




(This is an older post, edited)


Typically, the ewes take very good care of their lambs. We really do not have to do much in  way of animal husbandry.

We do have a few routine management practices that we perform.

Tail Docking being one.

Most lambs are not born with short tails. A lamb's tail can be pretty long, depending on the breed. Some breeds have shorter tails and do not need to be docked. Our lambs have the longer tails.
The tails are docked in the first two weeks.

Why dock tails?

Tails collect manure, which can lead to fly strike (wool maggots, yes, it is gross)
It is an accepted practice and you could have a hard time selling lambs and breeding stock without the tails being docked.

I have went back and forth with it, just like disbudding goats (which we still do) trying to decide if  I wanted to use this management practice.  I talked with a breeder who had the same dilemma, she chose not to dock her Border Leicester's one year.  She started docking again.  It is easier to take care of the animal with the docked tails. Especially, during lambing and shearing time.

There are several methods for docking tails. I chose the most common, Banding ,using a tool called an elastrator.
A rubber ring is placed on the lambs tail. 7-10 days later the tail falls off.
The lamb does experience some pain, but we have observed it is short-lived.
We give the lamb a shot to prevent against tetanus at the time of banding.

Here is a good tutorial showing the procedure:

Docking Tails

There are several other methods, but this is the only one I feel comfortable with at this time.

I have been reading about an Electric tail docker, which cuts and cauterizes. I am considering switching to this method. Until then, we will continue to band.

There are different opinions, on how short the tail should be docked.  Some show lambs have their tail almost completely removed. We do not participate in this practice. If my lambs do not show as well because of it, so be it.  That is a decision we have made.

I understand that some think that tail docking is wrong, just as they do disbudding and other animal husbandry practices.  This is not our belief, we believe we raise our animals humanely and this is a practice that is done to improve the health and welfare of our animals.

I respect others opinions and hopefully they will respect ours.

(This post is based on our opinions on sheep management practices)







25 comments:

  1. Oh it is always a big decision as far as the best way to protect your animals and I respect the choices every farmer has to make as they understand their animals better than anyone. Every farmer I know takes a lot of time and thought before doing anything always thinking of the best way for the animal be that sheep or any other animal.. Hug B

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  2. I enjoyed reading this. Yes, there are so many decisions to make too. With us it is dis-budding. Horns are always an issue with safety to themselves and to the others in the herd.

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    1. We had meat goats with horns, they would use them!! had a close call once.

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  3. Better an artificially short tail than a butt full of maggots. I'm with you completely.

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    1. Kelly, your comment made me laugh :) Right to the point, just the way I like it :)

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  4. When we were deciding what kind of sheep to have this was a major factor in deciding. We went with Icelandic sheep because of their naturally short tails and no need to castrate the ram lambs before they were ready for the freezer. The sheep we had as a little kid needed their tails docked and I always hated it even though it really needed to be done. I love your stance on showing and docked tails, some of the 4H show sheep we have seen have no tail what so ever and eventually end up with a rectal prolapse.

    We also let our critters keep their horns. It seems so wrong to de-horn a Scottish Highlander and it is much easier to handle the goats and sheep that have horns than the ones that don't. They have "handles", lol.

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    1. Thank you for your comments! I have heard some shows are trying to stop the extreme short docking and have guidelines.

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  5. Sandra,
    I agree with Miss Buttons and you. In the big picture docking is a health issue. I also disagree with the extreme docking of show lambs. Rectal prolapse is common and those can lead to other health issues. These prolapses are "fixable," but it is hard on the sheep.

    If I remember right, when I was showing (well over 10 years ago) California did have a docking rule. A #2 pencil had to fit under the dock, if not the lamb was kicked out of the show. Many things change quickly, but the docking issue has been around for a long time.

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    1. I think their should be guidelines. The extreme tail docking is bad in our area.
      I have heard someone say take it off, or you will be last in placing at the fair. I have never understood how a judge can't tell carcass quality if the tail is longer.

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    2. "there"
      I wish Blogger had an edit feature!!

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  6. I am learning so much here. I rescued an angora rabbit once. He was so matted and under his tail there were was a huge mat with worms growing in it. Is that what you mean by fly strike?

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    1. Sue, yes, it is when flies lay eggs in the wool and maggots hatch, they burrow in the flesh, it is disgusting. We have had it happen once, and we lost the lamb.

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    2. I can see why docking the lambs' tails would be so important.

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  7. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...this old saying applies to the tails and dehornng both. Horns get stuck in things and can be a hazard and tail maggot problems are horrendous. You have made the humane choice

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  8. I agree, management practices such as tail docking lambs and disbudding goat kids are for the animals' ultimate good. I also agree about show lambs' tails being docked too short. I have friends that have said the same thing you did, that they will do it they way they think is best and if their lambs don't place as well, so be it.
    Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

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  9. I agree as well. Although it's my least favorite part of having the Finn breed. I just docked the 1st set of twins tonight. I try to wait til right before dark to band tails. They whine a little, then nurse, then go to sleep. Then in the morning they seem to be fine. I also have Katahdin hair sheep which I love because they get to keep their tails!

    I also disbud all goat kids.

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    1. I forgot to say that my husband got to help tonight! He held the lambs which made it SO much easier on me. I hope he's here when I get ready to castrate!

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    2. We haven't castrated our Ram Lambs for quite a few years, but we are this year. If we have them longer than 5 months, it is a pain to keep them separated from the ewes.

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  10. I only have goats (and we chose to keep horns) and I know little about sheep. So when I saw this I had to read it! I was kind of scared I was going to see a pile of detached tails though! Haha, I completely understand why you would want to do this to your sheep...and after watching that video...oh my word...I need sheep. So beautiful and cute!

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    1. Monica, Thanks for stopping by :)
      Sheep are a good idea!

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  11. Thanks for explaining. We went through the same thing with our dairy goats. If we didn't dis-bud their horns, they were difficult to sell. We also left one with horns, and she tore up the barn with them, and charged at another female goat (tearing up her utter. She could have torn a milk vein too.

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    1. Yes, we tried horns, it wasn't worth the injuries.

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  12. Just to mention about horns. My brother's family had goats and left the horns on. Yes they are very aggressive sometimes in a herd, and will damage other goats with the horns. But the worst was the goat that was eating through the fence and got her horns entangled. The coyotes found her first. She was still alive, but partially eaten when the humans found her and put her down. Sorry about that, but if you have any predators in your area (including dogs), think about it. Also, if you have children you are endangering them by leaving horns.

    As to the tails. I think people have been docking for hundreds of years because it is best.
    The tail docking is common sense.

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    1. Yes, we tried horns with a few of our goats and we ended up with injured eyes, and animals.

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