Mulesing, Castrating, Tail Docking and Pain Relief - New Options in the Pipeline

Mulesing, Castrating, Tail Docking and Pain Relief - New Options in the Pipeline

Last year, we were asked by a sheep farmer what percentage of sheep in WA currently receive pain relief during mulesing and we included some information on that in the Spring issue of Livestock Welfare Matters.

In summary, the most up to date information on pain relief and mulesing can be found in the WA Sheep Producer Survey 2014 and comes from a survey of 4,910 WA sheep producers by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (formerly DAFWA).

The survey results showed that overall, including prime lamb and wool production, 59% of merino lambs were mulesed with pain relief and this was a slight increase when compared to survey results in 2011.

We encourage producers to use pain relief when mulesing, castrating or tail docking. Currently, pain relief options available for cattle producers include the Metacam injectable, Tri-Solfen topical treatment which is used in castration and disbudding, and meloxicam buccalgesic. These products are also available to sheep producers. 

And, there is a promising new addition to pain relief products for castration. Numnuts is a ring applicator that injects lignocaine, a fast-acting local anaesthetic, that can be used when tail docking and castrating. Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) funded the development of this relatively new device through producer levies. The work was undertaken by a Scottish based animal health company.

Numnuts delivers a dose of anaesthetic which lasts up to six hours for lambs. By that time, tissue around the lamb’s testes is dead which eliminates any residual pain.

Field studies were conducted in 2017 with positive results. You can find more information here.


  • Tonia:

    28 Apr 2018 15:13:55

    All farmers should have pain relief for all animals ,but prefer to inflict a lot of pain ,anything to save a dollar ,As more people are becoming vegetarians ,maybe they should put their land to crops instead of mass killings of animals

  • maureen boddam-whetham:

    28 May 2019 18:23:31

    I agree, grow more crops, not only is a vegetarian or vegan diet cheaper but very healthy, there are no hormones or other additives used for a quick fatten up of animals for slaughter. Those drugs are sure to be passed on to humans through the animals killed. I am 75, vegan and no medications I have a very healthy diet and not bland in fact it is more tasty than finding a piece of meat that is tough. I have been vegetarian for over 30 years and vegan for over 15. With droughts happening every year the farm animals are being denied a basic need of food and water. It’s time for change and the cruelty of cutting corners for cheapness in animal care is disgusting. How many farmers would be castrated without medication? Animals feel pain just like us it’s just that they accept it because they have to. They’re at human hands and take whatever humans dish out.

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