November 01, 2013


 AVMA warns of risks in lamb tail docking

Courtesy of Dr. Joseph H. Snyder​
 Docking lambs’ tails can help save their lives, but cutting tails too short also can hurt the animals.
Lambs’ tails often are cut too short in attempts to make the lambs look better in livestock shows, according to a video developed by the AVMA and available since August. 
Dr. Joseph H. Snyder, immediate past president of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, said in the video that the AVMA finds it unacceptable when lambs’ tails are docked too short, which often is done for cosmetic reasons and increases the risk of rectal prolapse. The video recommends that, when docking is needed, tails should be cut no shorter than the distal end of the caudal tail fold.

Local anesthetic should be used, and docking should be done at the earliest age practical.

The AVMA also states in the video that lambs and the sheep industry could benefit from alternatives to docking, such as genetic selection for shorter tails and attention to  external parasite control.
Tail docking can reduce the health risks caused by blowflies attracted to fecal soiling. The flies lay eggs in wool, offspring from which burrow into sheep’s skin and poison the animals with secreted ammonia.

The video, “The AVMA’s Policy on Docking of Lambs’ Tails,” is available here.