Sheep (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB5162)

Management: Castration 

  1. Farmers and shepherds should consider carefully whether castration is necessary within any particular flock. Castration is unlikely to be necessary where lambs will be finished and sent to slaughter before reaching sexual maturity. The procedure should only be carried out when lambs are likely to be retained after puberty and where it is necessary to avoid welfare problems associated with the management of entire males.
  2. Account should be taken not only of the pain and distress caused by castration but also the stress imposed by gathering and handling, and the potential risk of infection. For very young lambs gathered in large groups, there is a real risk of mis-mothering, which may lead ultimately to starvation and death.
  3. Castration should not be performed on lambs until the ewe/lamb bond has become established.
  4. Castration may only be carried out in strict accordance wit the law (see box below). The procedure should be performed by a competent, trained operator. Once a lamb is over three months of age, castration may only be performed by a veterinary surgeon using a suitable anaesthetic. Shepherds should only carry out surgical castration after having first considered and ruled out alternative methods, in discussion with their veterinary surgeon. 

 Under the Protection of Animals (Anaesthetics) Act 1954, as amended, it is an offence to castrate lambs which have reached three months of age without the use of an anaesthetic. Furthermore, the use of a rubber ring, or other device, to restrict the flow of blood to the scrotum or tail, is only permitted without an anaesthetic if the device is applied during the first week of life.

Under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, as amended, only a veterinary surgeon may castrate a lamb which has reached the age of three months.


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