Preparing for docking

Docking is just around the corner and it's a very busy time for anyone involved. Here's a few things to think about to ensure you meet the minimum standards...

The ideal age for tail docking is within six weeks of birth, but no less than 12 hours old. Tails should be left long enough to cover the vulva in ewe lambs and be of a similar length in ram lambs. The methods of tail removal which are recommended include hot searing/docking iron or conventional rubber rings. If an animal is over six months old, pain relief must be used.

Castration with a rubber ring is the most common method and is best done in lambs less than six weeks of age. This may be difficult for the commercial farmers however as castration and docking are commonly done together. When performing castration, placement of the ring is important so that the ring sits above both testes, but below the teats. For those who will be scrotum shortening, the ring is placed around the scrotum while the testes are pushed into the cavity above.

In order to minimise the chances of infection clean all pieces of equipment in disinfectant, aim to keep your hands clean and dry, and try to use a clean area (the use of temporary set up yards might help with this). Also avoid docking/castrating in wet weather.

Vaccinations can also be performed at docking time. Recommendations are as follows:

A lamb from an unvaccinated ewe should be given one dose of Lamb Vaccine at docking, then one shot of 5-in-1, 6-in-1 (either Multine® or Ultravac®) or 10 in 1 (Covexin® 10) four weeks later. Any lambs which are to be kept on farm for longer should receive a further booster shot of 5-in-1, 6-in-1 or 10-in-1.

For lambs born to previously vaccinated ewes, two injections of 5-in-1, 6-in-1 or 10-in-1 are required at 12 and 16 weeks of age.

Certain vaccines offer protection for different diseases:

  • Lamb Vaccine gives immediate protection against tetanus at docking because it contains tetanus antitoxin. It also contains a sensitiser for pulpy kidney disease.
  • 5-in-1 (Multine®or Ultravac®) protects against the clostridial diseases pulpy kidney, blackleg, black disease, maliganant oedema and tetanus.
  • Covexin® 10 and Ultravac® 6in1 provide protection against some extra clostridial diseases which cause ‘sudden death syndrome' seen in fast growing lambs on lush feed.

Both vaccination programs above will give protection to the lamb for 12 months. Any replacement animals vaccinated with this scheme will only require booster vaccines at pre-lamb.

If you have scabby mouth virus on your farm there is a vaccine available. Vaccination is done by scratching an ‘X' on to the skin on the inner thigh of the lamb with the vaccine tool at docking. You should always check for a successful ‘take' seven to 10 days afterward. Be careful not to scratch yourself with this vaccine as it is a live virus and you can catch the disease.

Vaccination regimes can be confusing, if you have any questions don't hesitate to speak to us to go over the programs discussed above.