Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A national policy on tail docking warranted

According to a recent article in the Delmarva Farmer, "A national policy, which is uniform, easily understood — and above all, enforceable — is the only way to settle the lamb tail-docking debate that is roiling and confusing 4-H leaders and 4-H youngsters across the country."

Grand Champion Market Lamb at 2006 Maryland State FairMaryland has had a 4-H tail docking policy since 2003. Maryland's current policy requires that a lamb entered in the market show must have a tail no shorter than 0.7 inches as determined by the approved measuring device. Most other states do not have a policy and allow tails to be docked as short as the breeder or owner desires.

According to the article, those in favor of the Maryland policy say a longer docked tail reduces the incidence of rectal prolapse, which can lead to death if left untreated. Those who oppose the policy say prolapses are more the result of other factors, mainly genetics and diet.

A 2003 multi-state study established a link between short-tail docks and rectal prolapses, when lambs were fed feed lot diets, as is common with most 4-H lambs.

Read Delmarva Farmer article