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A Breeding Goal to Improve the Welfare of Sheep

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A polled sheep with a short tail, and devoid of wool on the head, legs, belly and breech, has been proposed as a breeding goal (Scobie et al 1997). This paper examines the practical and welfare implications of such an objective. Mean shearing times were significantly (P < 0.001) slower for control Romney (97s) and Coopworth (88s) ewe hoggets compared to times for both breeds after they were 'trimmed' to resemble the breeding goal (47s). Romney wethers were slower to shear than ewes (P < 0.001), but trimmed wethers (53s) were much faster to shear than the untrimmed controls (99s). Trimmed sheep produced less wool (pooled mean weights of fleece wool for trimmed sheep vs total wool for controls being 2.5 vs 3.5 kg; P < 0.001), half the difference (ie 500g) consisting of lower value oddment wools from the untrimmed controls. Tails were docked to 0, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100 per cent of the distance between the base of the tail and the hock of Perendale lambs, and 0, 20, 40 and 60 per cent on Coopworths. More dags accumulated as the tail stump increased in length, although significance was dependent on the time of year and management system. No flystrike (cutaneous myiasis) was observed in Perendales given physical and chemical protection, while a small proportion of all tail lengths were flystruck in Coopworths given only physical protection. When shorn as hoggets, the time taken to shear Perendale ewes increased with increasing tail length (P < 0.001). Provided the undocked short tail is bare of wool, the proposed breeding goal should deliver an economic solution to sheep breeders attempting to satisfy markets conscious of chemical residue and animal welfare issues in the new millennium.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-11-01

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