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short dock- rectal prolapse - Sheep & Goats [Skip to Content]
Illinois Livestock Trail by UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION


Sheep & Goats
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QUESTION
I am asking this question, out of frustration, to those who "short dock" their lambs. Why? I buy and feed out several hundred lambs a year. Of all the lambs that had rectal prolapses also had their tails docked short. I have not had rectal prolapses from lambs that had long docks of at least two inches. I try to avoid buying "short docked" lambs when I can but because of the high number of lambs being "short docked" it's almost impossible to do in order to keep my feed lot full. A "short dock" does not increase the value of the lamb. As far as I'm concerned it decreases the value of the lamb. The reason is that I will pay more for a lamb that has a long dock vs a "short dock" of equal quality. Also I have to take less for a lamb that has a rectal prolapse because I have to get the lamb to a market at a much lighter weight and take a lesser price befor the lamb dies. It appears the "short dock" is for looks. But what is the value of looks when there is a good possibilty of rectal prolapes with a "short docked" lamb?


ANSWER

The problem you talk about is a very serious one. Most of the lambs in Illinois are docked short for appearence reasons. Many are from purebred or club lamb flocks and are short docked at an early age and then shipped when they are not going to be good enough to sell at a purbred price. That presents a serious problem for a person such as yourself who makes his money by feeding them to market weight and shipping them to market. I do not see this problem improving from your standpoint in the near future. I feel that rectal prolapsing is first of all a genetic problem and I also feel it has to be influenced by the distruction of the muscles surrounding the rectum during short or extreme docking. That is not to say the only short docked lambs will prolapse, we all know that is not true. I don't have any magic advise that can cure the problem for you. However I think you could consider seperating any short docked lambs you have and perhaps feeding them by hand twice a day so that their intake is not as great as lambs on full feed. I know this will increase the amount of work you khave to put into the lambs but it may allow you to observe them more closely and to remove them to pasture or to resell them when the first show signs of prolapsing. I realize that means passing the problem on to another person, but it should help you out. You could consider selling the lambs at an earlier weight. If you have a sale barn close by that may work for you. Another thing you could consider is the purchase of feeder lambs for other sources such as South Dakota that should have a reduced insidence of short tail docks and hopefully less prolapse problem. The issue of tail lenght is an extremely emotional one. I do see in the future that the issue will have to be confronted nationally.







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