Rubber rings may not be good for animal welfare or your profit

Looking after animal welfare takes effort and thought but can make you more profit. If your animals do well, your bank account can too.

Good animal welfare can be used to make your product more appealing to consumers, too.

Your financial welfare is closely tied to your animals' welfare. If your animal welfare practices are poor, you may well be poor soon too.

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Lamb marking in Australia involves
I have marked many lambs on many farms, using various methods over more than 40 years. In the process I have seen some excellent operators and some poor ones. And I have worked alongside some professional lamb markers.

From observing lamb behavior after castration and tail docking, I believe the lamb is better off when a knife is used than when a rubber ring is used.

The lamb that is castrated and has its tail docked carefully and considerately using a sharp, clean knife goes almost immediately into a natural state of shock that insulates it from the pain and allows it to get on with life.

However, with rubber rings shock seems to take a while to set in.

Lambs with rubber rings on their tail, scrotum or both often sit down, stunned and obviously in pain.

Lambs that have been marked with the knife usually walk away a little unsteadily then get on with life. Often they will be grazing normally before the lamb marked with the ring is on its feet.

If you have ever put a rubber band around your finger, you know that after little while it hurts. If you put the sort of ring that is used on sheep, it hurts a lot. And straight away. And keeps on hurting until it goes numb as your body cuts it off from the rest of you, preparing it to die.

Imagine that you had to have a finger removed for some reason and it had to be done out in the field, not in a hospital. Wouldn't you prefer it was quickly, expertly and cleanly cut or chopped off at the joint with a sharp, clean knife than have a rubber band on it till it fell off?

I don't plan on losing fingers, however, if I had to lose one, I would not choose a slow, painful and potentially gangrenous way.

I think people use rubber rings because they seem easier. Rings are certainly less messy - particularly when you have to explain to your young children what you have been doing to get so much blood on you.

Many people have had little experience with the recovery side of animal operations on farms. As a result, they do not necessarily read the signs correctly.

If the lamb is better off, the farmer is better off, because if the lamb does well, the farmer stands to make a better profit.

Animal welfare is becoming a bigger issue every day and it makes good market sense because welfare activists are pushing their ideas strongly.

Heed the market warnings about animal welfare if you want to continue farming as you do.

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This page was updated on December 27, 2007