Acute effects of mulesing and alternative procedures to mulesing on lamb behaviour

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Lauren E. Edwards, Naomi A. Arnold, Kym L. Butler, Paul H. Hemsworth
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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The practice of surgical mulesing is used as a preventative measure against flystrike in sheep. However, this practice raises welfare concerns due to the severity of the wound and the pain inflicted. Alternative procedures to mulesing have been investigated, but few of these studies have investigated the impact of mulesing and alternative procedures to mulesing on the welfare of lambs in the period immediately following treatment. This study investigated lamb behaviour, as an indicator of lamb welfare, during the 120 min following each of four treatments: Control; Mules (surgical mules without pain relief); Intradermal (chemical mules using the anionic surfactant sodium lauryl sulphate), and Clip (application of plastic clips to enclamp perineal skin). Lamb behaviour was observed remotely via digital video records using continuous observations. Mulesed lambs ate (P < 0.001) and drank (P = 0.017) less often, walked (P < 0.001) and ran (P < 0.001) less often, and stood with their head down (P < 0.001) for longer than all other treatments. The mulesed lambs also had a longer latency to start feeding (P = 0.009) after treatment imposition, and a shorter duration of the first lying bout (P = 0.006) compared to all other treatments. The only differences detected between Control, Clip and Intradermal lambs were in the times spent standing with their head down (P = 0.014) and kneeling (P = 0.009). However in general these differences in behaviour between the Control, Clip and Intradermal lambs were much less severe than those observed for the mulesed lambs, and it was concluded that the impact of the Clip and Intradermal treatments was less than that of the surgical mulesing treatment.


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