Activities with sheep

Information about the approved activities that may be carried out using sheep in schools.

Sheep – introduction to activities

As required by the Animal Research Act, the Schools Animal Care and Ethics Committee have prepared a list of approved activities. These activities are those that may need to be carried out in the school setting and have been deemed appropriate, when carried out by a person with the appropriate skill and experience and educationally justified.

The activities have been organised into categories 1-5. The category reflects the potential impact on the animal and requires a greater justification and expertise of those carrying out the activity. Visit Categories of activities for further explanation.

Taking measurements from sheep.

Sheep – non-invasive measurement

Approved activities Category
1. Body weight 2

2. Body condition

  • visual assessment
  • condition scoring
  • ultrasound




3. Growth 2
4. Body proportions 2
5. Pulse or bloodflow 2
6. Respiration 2
7. Skin temperature (non-invasive) 2
8. Age by dentition 2
9. Scrotum and testicles (palpation) 2

In order to weigh sheep they will need to be walked through the race and onto the scales. Routine weighing is generally done to:

  • Monitor growth rates
  • Match nutrition required with nutrition supplied
  • Provide data for analysis and planning.

Measurements can be taken while sheep are standing in a race, or if individual animals have small flight zones and are regularly handled, they may be held in a small pen or yard.

Image: Sheep may be aged by dentition while resting on their rump after being caught and thrown.
Image: Measurements can be taken while sheep are standing in a race.

Collecting samples from livestock.

Sheep – collection of samples

Approved activities Category
1. Wool/hair 2
2. Milk 2
3. Faeces & urine (non-invasive) 2
4. Faeces (invasive) 3
5. Blood 5
6. Measurement of body temperature (invasive) 3

Samples can be collected with sheep standing in a race or while resting on their rump after being caught and thrown.

When collecting faeces and urine samples, gloves should be worn and hands washed after completion of the activity.

Image: Collection of blood to test for brucellosis

Sheep husbandry practices.

Sheep – husbandry

*The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act describes the legal ages for the following sheep husbandry practices:

Castration – less than six months of age

Tail docking – less than 6 months

Mulesing – less than 12 months.

If any of these husbandry practices need to be done to sheep older than the prescribed ages, the operation must be carried out by a veterinarian using pain relief and haemorrhage control. If mulesing is to be carried out to sheep that are 6-12 months old, pain relief must be used.

Sheep must be shorn before the wool reaches 250 mm in length.

**Sheep must be suitably identified applicable to the production system and current regulations.

*All citizens in NSW must comply with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA)

**All sheep must be tagged in accordance with the NLIS

Approved activities Category
4. Ear marking/tagging of livestock 3
6. Hoof paring: sheep, goats & alpacas 3
8. Shearing of sheep & goats 3
10. Dagging 3
11. Crutching 3
12. Milking 3
18. Fire branding horns of stud sheep 3
21. Using sire harness 2

22. Castration of lambs

  • elastrator
  • knife
  • emasculator




23. Tail docking of lambs

  • elastrator
  • knife
  • emasculator
  • gas detailor





30. Microchipping 3
35. Mulesing of young sheep 5
Image: Castration, tail docking and ear marking or tagging are usually carried out together and are collectively known as lamb marking.

Routine husbandry activities for sheep include:

  • Internal parasite control
  • External parasite control
  • Vaccination
  • Identification (ear tagging)
  • Castration
  • Tail docking
  • Shearing
  • Crutching
  • Hoof paring
  • Mulesing (for Merinos).
Image: Tail docking of lambs mest be carried out by a skilled person only and preferably using a lamb marking cradle

Castration, tail docking and mulesing all have the potential to cause pain and distress. It is recommended that pain relief be used for all animals undergoing these procedures.

Pain management recommended for husbandry procedures privides advice about the type and use of pain relief suitable for livestock undergoing routine husbandry procedures.

Recently the product, Numnuts® has been released onto the market for use by sheep producers to reduce the pain caused by castration and tail docking. Numnuts® applies elastrator rings over the tail and scrotum while simultaneously injecting an optimal dose of the local anaesthetic, NumOcaine®.

Numnuts is the result of an international collaboration involving vets and design engineers from Scotland and the CSIRO, Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation. Further information about Numnuts can be found at Numnuts store.

It is estimated that a majority of producers that mules their sheep are now using the the product Tri-Solfen. Tri Solfen is a gel that is sprayed onto the wound immediately after mulesing. It contains two local anaesthetics, lignocaine that is fast acting to provide immediate pain relief and bupivacaine that is long acting to provide more prolonged pain relief. Tri-Solfen also contains adrenaline to help reduce blood loss and the antiseptic, Centrimide.

The facilities required to safely and competently carry out these husbandry activities will vary with numbers of sheep held, flight zones of individuals and activity to be completed. Equipment appropriate for the activity and in good working order must be used, e.g. an elastrator for tail docking or castration.

Castration, tail docking and ear marking or tagging are usually carried out together and are collectively known as lamb marking. Vaccination is typically carried out at this time. When carrying out several operations on the one animal at the one time, such as lamb marking, plan the operations so that the operation causing most stress is performed last.

These operations should be carried out by a skilled person only and preferably using a lamb marking cradle to adequately restrain the lamb. Marking is best carried out before the lambs are 4-6 weeks of age. All lambs should be marked to assist in flystrike control. All male lambs, other than those kept for breeding purposes, must be castrated as part of normal husbandry practice. Entire ram lambs will cause management problems and will tend to fight as they reach puberty.

Tail docking must be carried out in accordance with Animal welfare standards and guidelines for sheep. The docked tail should be long enough to cover the vulva in female lambs and be of similar length in males.

Lamb marking should not be undertaken during extreme weather and should be planned when fly activity is minimal. Good hygiene practices should be practiced in relation to facilities, hands, handling and instruments. Disinfectant should be used and changed frequently when numbers of lambs are being marked.

The incidence of tetanus, as a result of infection at lamb marking, can be limited by ensuring ewes have been routinely vaccinated and that lambs are vaccinated at lamb marking.

Lambs should be separated from their mothers for the shortest possible period of time and monitored after the lamb marking. It is advisable that operations such as lamb marking, and other operations with a potential for complications, not be carried out just prior to school holidays when monitoring may be less constant.

Adequate shelter, feed and water must be provided for sheep off-shears. Particular care needs to be taken if cold, wet and windy weather is experienced soon after shearing.

Sheep must not be moved within NSW unless they have an approved ear tag in their ear. Approved ear tags are printed with the property identification code (PIC). They can be either breeder tags (coloured according to the year of birth) or post-breeder tags (pink).

All sheep must be tagged before they leave the property on which they were born. This tag should ideally be the breeder tag in the correct year colour. A sheep can only have one breeder tag. If a sheep bred at your school has lost its tag, it must be re-tagged with either your school breeder tag or your pink post-breeder tag before it leaves your school.

If sheep that have been purchased have several different tags, you can choose to tag them all with your pink post-breeder tags. Each time a sheep moves to another property it may be given the post-breeder tag of that property. This means a sheep can have several post-breeder tags.

Sheep and Goat NLIS

All schools must comply with NLIS requirements.

Image: All sheep must be tagged before they leave the property on which they were born.

Schools are encouraged to keep sheep that are plain-bodied and that do not require mulesing. If Merinos, that require mulesing, are kept then mulesing must be carried out by a suitably competent person and in accordance with Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines (Sheep).

Sheep breeding activities.

Sheep – breeding

Approved activities Category
27. Artificial insemination 5
28. Semen collection 5

29. Pregnancy detection

  • external ultrasound
  • rectal
  • rectal ultrasound




The development and administration of an assisted breeding program requires the input of a veterinarian or suitably qualified and experienced technician. Laparoscopic insemination of sheep must be performed by a veterinarian or person under the supervision of a veterinarian. A high success rate is generally only achieved by an experienced and qualified operator.

If the teacher wishes to allow students to watch a veterinarian demonstrate the collection of semen and/or laparoscopic artificial insemination to students, they do not need to seek approval from the SACEC. The SACEC considers the veterinarian is suitably qualified and experienced to demonstrate best practice.

The timing of joining or insemination should be managed to align with feed availability for the ewes and lambs, and to reduce the weather risks for lambs. Management practices should minimise the stress on ewes to reduce pregnancy toxaemia and other metabolic diseases. Lambing ewes should be placed in sheltered paddocks, with quality feed and should be monitored but with minimal disturbance.

Image: Lambing ewes should be placed in sheltered paddocks, with quality feed and should be monitored but with minimal disturbance.

Sheep and lambs are often predated upon by dogs and foxes. The risk of predation must be reduced by using appropriate strategies that may include:

  • Fencing with upgraded security such as increased height, foot netting dug into the ground or electrification
  • Using a guard animal, e.g. alpaca(s), to live with the ewes and lambs
  • Shedding ewes and young lamb
  • Carrying out a baiting program in conjunction with the Livestock, Health and Pest Authority (LHPA)
  • Moving ewes and lambs to more secure locations.

Humane treatment of sick, diseased and injured animals.

Sheep – euthanasia

Approved activities Category
Slaughter/euthanasia of stock 5

Where an animal has become so sick, diseased or injured that recovery is unlikely or undesirable on humane grounds, euthanasia must be arranged with a local veterinarian.

Humane killing of animals must not be demonstrated to, or carried out by, students unless it is required:

  • To achieve a curriculum outcome or competency, or
  • As part of veterinary clinical management of an animal, under the direction of a veterinarian.

Students are permitted to watch a post-mortem of a euthanased animal provided there is no disease risk posed.


Sheep may be sold privately, at auction or consigned to an abattoir.

Carcases must be disposed of in accordance with local council regulations.

It is illegal to kill any animal and sell the meat for human consumption unless it has been slaughtered and prepared in a licenced processing facility.

Keeping clear and accurate records.

Sheep – record keeping

Teachers who use animals must keep clear and accurate records of:

  • The number of sheep owned or kept at the school
  • Identification of individual animals (ear tag number or name)
  • The dates and sources of acquisition of each animal
  • Disposal details and dates for each animal
  • Complete breeding records
  • The dates and types of husbandry practices carried out
  • The name, dosage, batch number, expiry date, withholding period and dates of any chemicals administered
  • Any accident, illness or injury involving school sheep and the veterinary treatment provided (if required)
  • Any significant occurrences that adversely affect the welfare of school animals, such as vandalism, dog attack, outbreak of disease etc.

Castration, tail docking and mulesing all have the potential to cause pain and distress and school staff should consider the use of pain relief for the animals undergoing these procedures. The use of suitable pain relief should be discussed with a veterinarian who is familiar with sheep and advice can be accessed at Flyboss – Pain relief – frequently asked questions.

The type and format of the records maintained will vary from school to school and be dependent on the number of animals kept, number of staff involved in maintaining the records and the layout and location of the school farm.

The minimum requirement is a daily diary that is accessible to all staff involved in the care and use of the animals.

Where there are several staff members involved in the care of animals it is essential that there is a mechanism for each staff member to document notes about the general health status of school animals and that these notes are available to all other staff members who may be involved in animal care.

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