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Lamb tail docking: a controlled field study of the effects of tail amputation on health and productivity
  1. NP French,
  2. R Wall and
  3. KL Morgan
  1. Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bristol, School of Veterinary Science, Langford.


A detailed study of the effects of tail docking on lamb health and productivity was prompted by current concern about the welfare aspects of lamb tail amputation. Using a controlled field trial, comparing over 3000 docked and undocked lambs on seven farms, the effects of tail docking on mortality, blowfly strike and production variables were examined. The incidence of blowfly strike was strongly and consistently higher in undocked than docked lambs (rate ratio 6.03, 95 per cent confidence interval (CI) 2.99 to 12.19 for male lambs and 4.25, 95 per cent CI 2.25 to 8.01 for female lambs). The incidence of faecal soiling of the breech was slightly higher in undocked lambs and was identified as an important independent risk factor for blowfly strike. Both the mortality and production parameters were similar for docked and undocked lambs. It was concluded that tail docking protected against blowfly strike, with little evidence of any detrimental effect on lamb mortality and production.

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