There are many methods for docking lambs’ tails. We choose to use the elastrator because it is very simple and easy to use, and it has a very low chance of infection or problems. There are no open wounds, and it seems to be relatively pain-free for the lamb. Plus, it is very economical – the tool is under $10 and the bands cost a few cents each.
The elastrator is a tool that easily stretches a special rubber band so that it can be applied to the lamb’s tail and positioned easily. It is important to purchase the correct size bands for what you are using it for. This tool can be used to castrate livestock as well (cattle, sheep, goats, etc), so there are several sizes of bands available.
We store our bands in a jar with rubbing alcohol so that they are sterile and ready when we need them.
First, you have to decide what length tail you want. For the show ring, the entire tail is docked. Since we don’t show our sheep, we want to leave a small tail on them. Generally, what we have read says to leave enough tail on males to cover the anus, and enough on females to cover their genitals.
To apply the band to the tail, my husband takes the 2-day-old lamb and puts it across his lap, using his arm and elbow to hold the front part of the body still. We put a band onto the end of the elastrator tool.
Then he squeezes the handle of the tool, stretching out the band, and slides the band over the tail.
Once it is where we want it, he slowly releases the handle, and then slips the tool out from under the band.
The lamb acts like it can feel it for about 5 minutes or so, and then goes back to normal behavior. The end of the tail is very cold within an hour. It should fall off in about 3 weeks or so.
Here is a picture of our lamb, Lily, who has had her band on for 2 weeks now. You can see how the top of the tail is continuing to grow, whereas the dead part below the band is skinny and not growing.
Using the elastrator to dock lambs’ tails is quick, easy, and economical. It is the only option that makes sense for our little backyard farm.