Sheep Tail-docking Regulations

On 9 May 2021 new animal welfare regulations will come into effect, which clarify who can carry out some surgical procedures on animals, and how they must be done. I have attached a flyer with information on these.

You can view a copy of the regulations here. You can find more details on the regulations and how they were developed here.
Further guidance will be added to the following webpage as we get closer to May 2021. You can find information on current regulations and resources there too.

Sheep tail-docking regulations

One of the new regulations is around tail-docking sheep. We’re raising awareness now so that people who get their lambs tail-docked, or who carry out tail-docking, are well prepared for next year, particularly if they need to make changes to what they’re currently doing. These requirements come from the existing Painful Husbandry Procedures Code of Welfare, so for some people there won’t be much change.  

Link to recent Farmers Weekly article:

Key points:

  • Tail-docking of sheep under 6 months old must be done using only a hot iron or rubber ring. Otherwise you can be fined $500.
  • The tail should be left long enough to cover the vulva in ewes, and a similar length in rams. If you dock any shorter than the distal end of the caudal fold, you can be fined $500 (or $1,500 for the business). Alternatively, you could face court proceedings for serious offending, such as when multiple sheep are involved.
  • Sheep older than 6 months must only be tail-docked by a veterinarian, using pain relief. Otherwise you could face a criminal conviction and fine of up to $3,000 (or $15,000 for the business).
  • These regulations apply to the owner/person in charge of the sheep, as well as the person doing the docking. 

Page 66-67 of this document has the policy rationale for the sheep tail-docking regulations.

Surgical Procedures on Animals & Sheep Tail-Docking flyers

If you would like to order printed versions of these flyers, you can do so via the “Order online” link at the bottom of the following webpage.

If you have any queries you can email