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Analgesia and Anaesthesia
The development of effective and practical anaesthetic and analgesic treatments for lambs has been a critical advance in alleviating the pain and distress lambs experience associated with husbandry procedures such as mulesing, tail docking and castration. Globally, Australian Merino woolgrowers have been leaders in the adoption of pain relief for husbandry procedures.
On-farm adoption of these analgesic and anaesthetic options has been rapid.
- A 2014 survey, on 2011 practices, (2014 Benchmarking Australian Sheep Parasite Control by UNE) reported 64% of respondents used pain relief when mulesing wether lambs and 59% for ewe lambs
- The 2017 Merino Husbandry Practices Survey of 1,200 woolgrowers reported that by 2017 84% of woolgrowers who mules Merino wether lambs provided analgesics and or anaesthetics, whilst 83% provided analgesics and or anaesthetics for their Merino ewe lambs.
- The 2021 Merino Husbandry Practices Survey of 1,203 woolgrowers, reported that by 2021 92% of woolgrowers who mules lambs provided analgesics and or anaesthetics.
The 2017 Merino Husbandry Practices Survey also reported that nationally 42% of woolgrowers castrated and/or docked their lambs with analgesics and/or anaesthetics. The more detailed 2021 Merino Husbandry Practices Survey reported that in 2021 60% of woolgrowers used analgesics and/or anaesthetics at lamb tail docking and 30% of woolgrowers used analgesics and/or anaesthetics when castrating their male lambs. Analgesic and or anaesthetic options for ring castration and/or ring tail docking have only been available since 2016 and woolgrower adoption of these options will continue to be monitored over the coming years.
For more information on the use of analgesics and anaesthetics at lamb marking, check out the following:
- The latest in research reports, publications and industry news on analgesia and anaesthesia
- Trends in mulesing, tail docking and castration practices of Australian woolgrowers: Results of the 2021 AWI Merino Husbandry Practices Survey
- Factsheet – Anaesthetics and Analgesics at Lamb Marking – 2023
- Training Guide - Plan, Prepare and Conduct Best Practice for Sheep Husbandry Procedures, Feb 2020 - This training guide describes best-practice management and techniques at lamb marking (which includes tail docking, castration and vaccination) and mulesing. It is designed to assist woolgrowers and their contractors perform these procedures with the utmost care and attention, to ensure the best short term and long-term welfare outcomes for the animal.