Painful Husbandry

Lambs face painful husbandry procedures such as tail-docking, castration and ear-tagging, usually in their first six months of life. These are acutely painful, with tail-docking and ear-tagging resulting in severe pain for hours to days [1-3].

There is no doubt that painkillers effective throughout the painful period are necessary. Sadly, animal welfare regulations do not adequately protect sheep. Many animals continue to experience these procedures without adequate pain relief, because it is cheaper and quicker not to administer it.

Sheep also experience varying levels of nutrition, hunger and exposure to the weather, throughout their lives, and many become lame, suffering from painful conditions, such as footrot [4-5].

Progress such as increased use of painkillers is slowly occurring, but compliance with best practice is far from uniform. Many serious animal welfare problems will inevitably continue to cause substantial suffering for millions of sheep annually.


1. Farm Animal Welfare Council (2008). FAWC Report on the Implications of Castration and Tail Docking for the Welfare of Lambs., accessed 29 Sep. 2017.

2. AVMA (2014). Welfare implications of tail docking of lambs., accessed 29 Sep. 2017.

3. Windsor, P.A. and White LP. (2016). Progress in pain management to improve small ruminant farm welfare. Small Ruminant Res. 142: 55-57.

4. Farm Animal Welfare Council (2011). Opinion on Lameness in Sheep., accessed 29 Sep. 2017.

5. Raadsma, H.W., Dhungyel, O.P. (2013). A review of footrot in sheep: New approaches for control of virulent footrot. Livestock Science, 156 (1-3): 115-125.