I haven’t forgotten about this blog, honestly. I’ve been waiting for the piglets, certain that every day they’ll arrive at some point and make for a very interesting blog full of cute photos. However, Rosie is steadfastly refusing to give birth and even the guinea pigs have contained themselves this last week. So onto another subject.


And yes, it probably is what you think it sounds like. Elastration (from “elastic” and “castration”) is a bloodless method of castration or tail dockign used in animals. It involves putting a very tight elastic band around the relevant body part until it drops off. It’s a popular method because it’s cheap, doesn’t require anaesthesia and pretty much anyone can do it.

A tail docking kit - for a very large herd! Note the pliers...

A tail docking kit – for a very large herd! Note the pliers…

We finally found a packet of elastrator rings for April’s tail and looked up what to do with them. I discovered that elastration is best carried out as soon as possible so April at eight weeks is now too old. However, some findings show that applying the elastrators to lambs the moment they’re born may mean that don’t ingest enough colostrum because of the pain. So in that case it’s best to wait for a few days beforehand. But whatever time you chose, it’s still very uncomfortable for the animal, as you can probably imagine.

I started doing a lot more looking into the matter. According to some sources it’s more traditional than necessary. On sheep the tails are docked for cleanliness and to help prevent flystrike (blowfly). We lost little Bertie the llama to flystrike last year, and had to treat Amélie the alpaca, Lambo and Mrs Suffolk with aggressive chemicals to rid them of their afflictions. It’s a very nasty thing to happen to an animal. However, there’s a lot of literature saying that tail docking isn’t the main prevention of flystrike, keeping your animals’ rear ends’ clean by controlling diarrhea and generally hygiene is more effective. And flystrike can start in wounds and in any patch of damp, thick wool as we know, not just around a daggy (the unfortunate – for us anyway! – term for a dirty) butt.

There are pros and cons for tail docking. But whether sensibly or not, April gets to keep her tail. As well as missing the right time, we also didn’t realise that we needed special pliers to put the elastrator rings onto a tail with. Possibly we could have improvised with something else, but I imagine you have to work quickly and accurately with a wriggling lamb attached to the tail. No room for error.

So, since there are no more lambs arriving here this year, we have until next spring to decide on our tail docking policy, or non-policy.