Farmers are nothing if not innovative, and one of the privileges of working in the industry is working alongside people prepared to innovate and change and lead. Things have certainly moved on in the over 20 years that I’ve been down in Southland, and change has been the order of the day. What’s been particularly good is the way farmers down South have front-footed change.
Leading and setting the agenda in a system that we understand inherently is always better than having change forced on you by someone from somewhere else who simply doesn’t understand the complexities of farming. Looking at the new(ish) Animal Welfare regulations, tail docking is now forbidden for cows and dogs; and severely restricted for pigs. There is nothing mentioned (at this stage) about lambs. We know that tailing of lambs is likely a painful procedure but effectively managing that pain has been a challenge.
Looking at where things are heading, it’s quite exciting to see a potential new option being made available for our farmers. Tri-solfen is a topical anaesthetic gel that provides pain relief for at least up to 8 hours following application. It’s licensed for use after docking lambs and for after disbudding calves, and the research work certainly looks promising. We haven’t used it ourselves but are going to introduce it to use for calves after disbudding this spring. We think it would be a great thing to use at tailing time to pop a bleb of this on each docked tail as the lambs are released.
We’d like to get our progressive sheep farmers out there using it and getting feedback on its effectiveness and practicality. We can see this as being a really proactive approach to managing docking in lambs, before it’s managed for us.