Measuring Sheep Tails: A Preliminary Study Using Length (Mm), Vulva Cover Assessment, and Number of Tail Joints

Madeleine Woodruff, Carolina Munoz, Grahame Coleman, Rebecca Doyle, Stuart Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Docking sheep tails is a long-standing practice that, when done at the recommended length, reduces the risk of flystrike. The recommended length is to cover the vulva of ewes and to a similar length in males. This length is often equated to three coccygeal joints left intact, and there are many other ways the recommended length is described by researchers, industry, and government. This
study compared the observer consistency and retest consistency using three different tail length measurement methods: vulva cover assessment, length (mm), and joint palpation. The tails of 51 yearling and 48 weaner Merino ewes were assessed by two observers. Length and vulva cover assessment methods provided the most reliable results, and joint palpation was the least reliable method of tail measurement. In the sample, tails that covered the vulva of yearlings and weaners
measured 57.6 mm (n = 14) and 63.7 mm (n = 30) on average, respectively, and contained two coccygeal joints (more than two coccygeal vertebrae). Tails that did not cover the vulva of yearlings and weaners measured 41.3 mm (n = 36) and 52.8 mm (n = 17) on average, respectively, and had less than two coccygeal joints. The two most reliable methods enable valid comparison to the best
practice recommendations
Original languageEnglish
Article number963
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalAnimals
Volume13
Issue number6
Early online date7 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • tail
  • best practice
  • welfare
  • length
  • monitoring
  • merino

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