*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).

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