Docking the tail to the correct length at lamb marking time is crucial in minimising stain around the breech and reducing flystrike risk throughout the sheep’s life.
The recommendation is to dock the tail immediately below the third palpable joint or to the tip of the vulva in ewes.
This tail length allows the sheep to lift its tail and channel urine and faeces away from the breech area. It also reduces the risk of cancers from exposure of soft tissue to the sun.
Download the Kondinin Group article on correct tail length below.
Download the report:
Tail length in unmulesed Australian Merino sheep
Report for Australian Wool Innovation, December 2012
Tails are generally removed in one of three ways:
The following is an extract from NSW DPI Standard Operating Procedures for Lamb Marking
If you have not used a docking iron, and are considering investing in one, note that they require some skill. Feedback from one Qld Sheep Extension Officer, who saw them in use on many properties was that they did a very good job when in good hands, but that he generally did not recommend them because many people couldn't operate them well and caused burns on the tail stump, rather than a clean cut, and this slowed recovery time and increased the chance of flystrike on the burn wound.
Also, a sheep veterinarian in Victoria has remarked that all docking irons are not equal. There are a number of brands available (three are shown below), each with their pros and cons.
When making your choice, consider these characterists:
Primus Lamb Docking Iron
Leader Products Lamb Docking Iron
Te Pari Patesco Docking Iron