Behavioural responses of lambs to plastic clips as an alternative procedure to mulesing

Aust Vet J. 2012 Oct;90(10):373-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-0813.2012.00977.x. Epub 2012 Aug 23.


Objective: Compare the effects on the behaviour of lambs of applying occlusive plastic clips, as an alternative procedure to surgical mulesing, with tail docking, surgical mulesing and a control treatment.

Procedure: We allocated 48 6-7-week-old Merino lambs to four treatment groups: plastic clips (Clip); surgical mulesing (Mules); tail docking with a rubber ring (Tail ring); no treatment (Control). For each posture and behaviour observed on each of the 4 days post-treatment, a Dunnett's multiple comparison test was used to simultaneously compare the Clip treatment with each of the comparator treatments (Control, Tail ring and Mules treatments).

Results: Most of the significant differences (P < 0.05) detected between the comparator treatments occurred on day 1. For four of these measurements, the Clip treatment differed (P < 0.01) from the Mules treatment, but from not the Control and Tail ring treatments: the Clip lambs spent less time standing immobile not interacting with ground, hay or feeder, less time standing immobile head down not interacting with ground, hay or feeder, more time walking and more time interacting with ground, hay or feeder.

Conclusion: These behavioural results, together with previous behavioural and physiological research, indicate that the effect on lamb welfare of applying occlusive clips is less than that of surgical mulesing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal* / physiology
  • Female
  • Insect Control / methods*
  • Male
  • Myiasis / prevention & control
  • Myiasis / veterinary*
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Pain / veterinary
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Sheep Diseases / surgery
  • Tail / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Veterinary Medicine / instrumentation
  • Veterinary Medicine / methods