Animal Health issues reminder on lamb tail docking

WITH lambing in full swing, NFU Scotland is reminding farmers of the rules about tail docking, writes Ruairidh Campbell.

The rules state that farmers can shorten the length of a lambs tail to prevent soiling of fleece and reduce the chances of a lamb getting fly strike – when flies are attracted to faecal matter and lay eggs that become maggots which eat into the animal causing much pain.

Farmers are allowed to dock lambs’ tails but tails have to be a certain length – by law, tails must cover the ewe’s vulva or ram’s anus. NFU Scotland policy manager Penny Johnston said: “Proper tail docking is a vital tool in minimising the risk of fly strike.”

However, she added, every year inspectors find a minority of farmers who have made the tail too short – some are discovered during farm inspections but most are caught at shows.

She said inspectors are most likely to check the most recent lamb crop, but she warned: “The rules on the docking of sheep tails have been in place, unchanged for nearly a quarter of a century so action against older sheep cannot be ruled out completely.

“We have approached the enforcement agency, Animal Health and asked for proportionality, especially when it comes to looking at the older flock.”