Assessment of the welfare implications of alternative devices for sheep castration and tail docking

Project Details


The UK has a large (15.4 million breeding animals in 2020) and diverse sheep industry. Within the sector, castration and tail docking are common management procedures for young lambs. Castration is used to prevent uncontrolled breeding and to minimise behavioural problems with intact male stock. Tail docking is used to prevent fly strike. Both procedures are most commonly conducted by application of a tight rubber ring, which cuts off blood flow to either the tail or scrotum. However, despite being a widespread practice, both procedures are known to cause intense acute pain and are therefore seen as one of the largest animal welfare issues in sheep production. To date, various practical constraints have limited the development and uptake of valid and economically viable approaches to mitigating pain in young lambs.
The study aims to investigate whether the acute pain associated with castration or tail docking in young lambs can be alleviated by use of two different novel devices.

The project is comparing welfare outcomes for two near-commercial devices for tail docking and castration of sheep:
1) Assessment of pain associated behaviours of male lambs (less than 1 week and 6-8 weeks old) in response to castration or tail docking with a new method (Clampeasy) compared with a ‘best welfare practice’ method which includes local anaesthesia and analgesia
2) Assessment of the effectiveness of procaine HCl local anaesthetic for the reduction of pain following castration and/or tail docking in young lambs when administered at the time of application of rubber rings using a Numnuts® applicator.
Effective start/end date1/02/2230/09/22


  • lamb, castration, welfare, behaviour


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