Wednesday, 13 January 2021 11:55

Sting in tail of non-compliance

Written by  Peter Burke
MPI is telling farmers to get up to speed with animal welfare regulations. MPI is telling farmers to get up to speed with animal welfare regulations.

MPI is warning sheep farmers to get up to speed with new animal welfare regulations relating to the docking of sheep which come into force at the end of May. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Chris Rodwell says although tailing is a common farming practice, it is a significant procedure for the lamb. He says the regulations aim to improve sheep welfare by clarifying how tail-docking should be done, and who can carry it out.

There are now new offences and penalties for breaches of these rules.

“From May, the length at which you can dock a sheep’s tail cannot be shorter than the distal end of the caudal fold. This means the tail needs to be long enough to cover the vulva in ewes, and a similar length in rams,” Rodwell explains.

“If you dock too short, you can be fined $500, or $1500 for the business. Alternatively, you could face court proceedings for serious offending such as when multiple sheep are involved. Docking of sheep under six months old must be done using a hot iron or rubber ring. If you use anything else, you can be fined $500.”

Rodwell says for sheep older than six months, the procedure can only be done by a veterinarian, using pain relief. Otherwise, farmers could face a criminal conviction and fine of up to $3000, or $15,000 for the business. 

He says farmers do care about their livestock and want to follow the rules and many will already be meeting these requirements. But Rodwell warns that some will have to make changes to their practices for next year.

“These regulations come into effect on 9 May 2021, along with others covering a variety of surgical procedures carried out on a wide range of animals.”
 More information about the new regulations is on the MPI web site.

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