SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Sheep

Farmed Animals

SPCA opposes the intensification and indoor rearing or tethering of sheep for meat or dairy production. SPCA supports farming systems which allow sheep access to the outdoors provided they are able to maintain comfort through unrestricted access to shade and shelter that protects them from the elements, such as extreme temperatures, solar radiation, and inclement weather including wet muddy conditions, rain, wind, hail, and snow.

SPCA advocates for sheep to be reared outdoors on appropriately managed pasture enabling them to express their natural behaviour. In these systems, good management practices and frequent inspection of sheep are required to prevent welfare issues, such as high mortality rates of new-born lambs, emaciation, lameness, and footrot. Shade and shelter must always be available, along with sufficient additional feed provided in the winter.

Sheep should be able to carry out a range of species-specific behaviours, such as grazing and the formation and maintenance of preferred partner bonds. Tethering of sheep is only acceptable for a brief period for the purpose of administration of medical treatment or for a veterinary examination, and sheep must never be unsupervised when tethered.

SPCA is concerned about the production demands placed on sheep and supports the welfare of sheep to remain paramount at all times.

Sheep must not be bred to produce more lambs than they can effectively rear for a full lactation without loss of body condition.

SPCA opposes the historical practice of mulesing in sheep.

It is now an offence against the ‘Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018’ to mules an animal in New Zealand.

SPCA is concerned about the welfare harms and death of lambs as a result of early lambing that is scheduled to take place during winter or spring, when temperatures may cause thermal stress.

If lambing does occur at this time, then where ever possible appropriate and adequate provision must be made for warm, dry shelter which is accessible for all sheep and lambs. Supplementary feed and water must be must be made available for the animals during summer droughts, freezing spring temperatures, or any other poor weather conditions, including wet and muddy conditions.

SPCA is concerned about the welfare harms as a result of pre-lamb shearing.

Holding pregnant ewes off feed for long periods to “empty” can lead to metabolic problems. If pre-lamb shearing must be conducted, it should not be done within six weeks of lambing, an appropriate winter cover comb should be used, and recently shorn ewes must be provided with a sheltered paddock with appropriate shelter to protect them from adverse environmental conditions. Weather conditions should be checked to avoid cold weather. Additional feed should also be provided in this circumstance.

SPCA opposes routine painful body modifications of sheep (such as castration, tail docking or mulesing) for non-therapeutic reasons, if these procedures can be avoided through improved genetics, husbandry or management.

Painful husbandry modifications of sheep must only be performed where there is a clearly established and unavoidable need. Where painful husbandry modifications are performed, the most humane methods available based on current research and recommendations must be used and adequate and appropriate medical care must be provided prior to, during, and after the operation and include anaesthesia and analgesia. SPCA supports the research anddevelopment of husbandry and management practices that eliminate the need for routine painful body modifications of lamb and sheep.

(see Castration and Shortening of the Scrotum for more details)

(see Tail Docking for more details)

SPCA opposes the routine docking of lambs’ tails.

SPCA supports the use of humane alternatives to tail docking and advocates for the elimination of the need to perform this procedure through the identification and advancement of alternative husbandry methods. SPCA supports tail docking only when it is necessary to avoid the potentially life-threatening consequence of fly strike where no alternatives are possible. In these circumstances, docking methods must be used that cause the least pain and distress and adequate and appropriate medical care must be provided prior to, during and after the procedure and include anaesthesia and analgesia.

SPCA opposes the use of standard castration rings without the use of analgesia. Our organisation advocates for the use of the application of slow release pain-relief infused bands. If tail docking must take place, SPCA supports recommended best practice that for females, the tails are left long enough to at least cover the vulva, and be of a similar length in males.

(see Tail Docking for more details)

SPCA opposes the sale of orphan lambs at markets/saleyards.

SPCA opposes the use of markets/saleyards for the sale of young animals, as SPCA advocates that it is significantly more humane for the animals to travel directly from farm-to-farm or from farm to slaughterhouse. If lambs are weaned or sent to slaughter early, our organisation recommends that this does not take place before they are independent of their mother for food and never before they are three months old.

(see Saleyards for more details)

SPCA advocates for the development of methods of removing superficial contaminants and improved management practices to remove the need for sheep to be washed before slaughter, and to ensure that sheep remain relatively clean throughout their lives.

SPCA advocates for an end to the practice of swim washing of sheep, as it is known to be stressful and has also been found to increase bacterial contamination.

SPCA opposes the long-distance transport and live export of sheep.

(see Transport for more details)

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