Thursday, April 25, 2024

Confusion around new docking rules

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New docking rules that came into force in May are causing concern and confusion among some farmers.

MPI announced the new regulations, which aim to improve sheep welfare by clarifying how tail-docking should be done and who can carry it out, at the end of last year.

A sheep’s tail cannot be docked shorter than the distal end of the caudal fold. This means the tail needs to be long enough to cover the vulva in ewes and a similar length in rams.

Docking too short could result in a fine of $500, or $1500 for a business, and if multiple sheep are involved that could lead to court proceedings.

Docking of sheep under six months old must be done using a hot iron or rubber ring. Any other method could result in a $500 fine.

For sheep older than six months, the procedure can only be done by a veterinarian, using pain relief. Not doing so could result in a criminal conviction and fine of up to $3000, or $15,000 for a business.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand senior manager of technical policy Chris Houston says B+LNZ has heard from farmers that awareness of the new regulations varies, so it is including reminders in its regular newsletters and on its website.

“We’ve also heard there is some confusion or concern out there about the exact length required,” Houston said.

“We’re working with MPI and industry contacts to get further clarity so farmers can more easily understand this in practice and will be supporting any further communications around this.”

MPI director animal health and welfare Dr Chris Rodwell says since the December announcement there have been further awareness activities.

Information sheets have been distributed to farmers, veterinary clinics and sale yards across the country.

MPI staff have attended field days, A&P shows and other rural events, with a focus on engaging with farmers, tail-docking contractors, stock agents, veterinarians, lifestyle block owners and docking equipment stockists.

Rodwell says MPI has sent direct email advisories to affected parties, carried out targeted social media advertising and worked with industry groups to coordinate messaging.

It has updated an information sheet to provide more clarity around the length requirements and reasoning behind it.

“Over the next few weeks this will be distributed as widely as possible to industry groups, farmers, veterinary clinics and sale yards,” Rodwell said.

MPI will also utilise rural newspapers and social media to remind people of the rules in time for lambs that are being docked this season.

Farmers and other sheep owners can access the most up to date information about regulations at www.mpi.govt.nz/animalregs

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