Friday, December 21, 2007

2008 Maryland 4-H Tail Docking Policy

December 12, 2007 -- The 2008 Maryland 4-H Tail Docking Policy remains virtually unchanged from 2007. 4-H lambs should be docked no shorter than the distal end (farthest from the body) of the caudal tail fold. The caudal fold is a flap of skin attached to the underside of the tail near the rectum and is clearly visible when the tail is lifted.

Lambs meeting the 0.7 inch requirementLambs docked in this manner will have a minimum tail length of 0.7 inches at the time of show. Purchased lambs (market and breeding) should have a minimum tail length of 1.4 inches at the time of "weaning." This gives a high probability that the lamb's tail will measure at least 0.7 inches at the time of show. 4-Hers should continue to use the DeTail device to select lambs that have been properly docked.

Voluntary compliance
In 2008, compliance with the Maryland 4-H Tail Docking Policy will be VOLUNTARY. Lamb tails (docks) will not be officially measured at Maryland 4-H activities. No lambs will be disqualified from showing due to tail length, unless the short dock results in a rectal prolapse.

The policy will be re-evaluated at the end of 2008.

Rectal prolapses
Any sheep or lamb that exhibits a rectal prolapse at a 4-H activity will be ineligible for the activity and sent home by the Extension Educator, Sheep Superintendent, or other appropriately deemed individual. The following will be used as a guideline to determine occurrence of a rectal prolapse:
    “A rectal prolapse is defined as an inversion of the rectum that protrudes 4 cm (1.6 in.) or more outside the body and remains exterior to the body while the animal is standing."
If a lamb is observed with a rectal prolapse (by one of the above people) and in the future is not observed with a rectal prolapse, it is still classified as having a rectal prolapse. This was the criteria used in the 2003 multi-year study published by the Journal of Animal Science that established a link between tail length and the incidence of rectal prolapses in lambs fed concentrate diets.

Questions about Maryland's 2008 4-H Tail Docking Policy should be directed to Susan Schoenian at (301) 432-2767 x343 or