Tail docking, castration and health and welfare
Tail docking is a necessary part of sheep health management. By tail docking lambs, producers reduce the risk of flystrike, which is a major issue for sheep health and welfare. Flystrike not only harms the sheep, it also costs the Australian wool and sheep meat industries in excess of $200 million per year.
Castration reduces aggressive behaviour by male sheep, injuries when handling male sheep and unplanned breeding, allowing for improved health and welfare. Consumers also prefer the flavour of meat from castrated sheep over that of uncastrated sheep.
The health and welfare of sheep is important and a major goal of farmers and the industry bodies Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation.
Helping improve animal welfare by providing pain relief for marking
For any minor surgical procedure or dental work, people are given a local anaesthetic to numb the area just beforehand, and it's followed with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to maintain the relief after the local anaesthetic wears off.
To provide the same method of pain relief for lambs that undergo marking, we are working with our partners to deliver both local anaesthetic and NSAID solutions for producers to use.
Commercial pain relief product on the market
With our supporting research, pain relief options for lambs undergoing castration and/or tail docking are now available to producers in Australia and New Zealand.
We worked with Numnuts®, 4C Design, Meat & Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation to test and validate a targeted local anaesthetic delivery system for farmers to use when tail docking and castrating their lambs.
In trials we conducted with the University of Melbourne, Numnuts® reduced the number of lambs displaying pain behaviours immediately after marking by up to 68%.
We worked with Troy Laboratories and Meat & Livestock Australia to test and validate Ilium Buccalgesic OTM®, an NSAID that is absorbed through the lining of the mouth.
Our research has shown that providing Buccalgesic not only relieves pain in lambs, it improves their overall welfare, reducing lamb losses.