News & Advice

6 things to remember when docking lambs

Aug 31, 2022 | Dry stock, Dry stock animal health & welfare, Sheep


Tail-docking lambs can be done within six weeks of age but no younger than 12 hours old. It is done for cleanliness, and to reduce the risk of flystrike by helping to prevent fecal matter from accumulating on the tail and hindquarters of the sheep.

Remember to minimise the risk of infection by:

  • cleaning all pieces of equipment in disinfectant
  • aim to keep your hands clean and dry, and try to use a clean area
  • avoid docking in wet weather.

Current minimum standards include docking tails to a sufficient length to cover the bottom of the vulva in ewe lambs and a similar length in ram lambs, and it is preferred that lambs are docked as early as possible, but by six weeks of age. Lambs that are docked after 6 months of age require pain relief under the Code of Welfare.


Clostridial vaccines

Lambs born to unvaccinated ewes should be given a Lamb Vaccine at docking. If ewes were vaccinated in late pregnancy, then the lambs will be covered by maternal/colostrum antibodies until they are 12 weeks old. Lambs will require a 5-in-1 at 3 months of age (approx. November) and a booster 4-6 weeks later. Docking is one of the key times to have clostridial protection in lambs, tetanus is an obvious risk of docking.



If a long-acting drench has been used pre-lambing, then now is a good time to give the ewes an “exit” drench with a broad spectrum product like Matrix or Zolvix, to kill any resistant worms that may have survived the treatment. Lambs should not need a drench at docking time. Studies have shown this practice is unlikely to lead to weight gains and puts unnecessary stress on drench in terms of resistance. Routine drenching should not begin until weaning time in most cases. If you have any concerns about how well your drench is working, now is a good time to run a “drench check”.



Use of a fly prevention product, such as Cyrosheild spray on, Clik or Clikzin, Vetrazin, will prevent flystrike related to docking and delay the need for full treatment with Clik until later. In this area, the flies have become resistant to products, such as Zapp and Exit, although these remain as good treatments for lice. Clik does not kill lice, but is at present the best long-acting flystrike preventative. If you are sending frequent drafts of lambs away through the spring, be careful to note the meat withholding period and the dates of application to avoid problems later.


Scabby Mouth vaccine

As Scabby Mouth is a live vaccine, it should only be used on properties that have had Scabby Mouth in the past. This disease is also zoonotic (can infect people), so care should be taken when administering.


Colbalt and B12

Approximately 13% of NZ pasture land is deficient in cobalt, a trace element that is used to make Vitamin B12. Young, growing lambs are most susceptible to cobalt deficiency as they are less able to convert cobalt into Vitamin B12. Signs of deficiency include reduced growth rates, poor appetite, depressed immune system, increased lamb losses and decreased wool and milk production. An injection of Vitamin B12/selenium at docking can help prevent deficiency and long acting Smartshot will last 3-4 months, and has been shown to enhance growth rates even when lambs are not deficient.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your local Anexa Vet – where here to help.

Share This