Assessment of the short-term systemic effect of and acute phase response to mulesing and other options for controlling breech flystrike in Merino lambs

M. L. Lepherd, P. J. Canfield, Geraldine B Hunt, P. C. Thomson, K. L. Bosward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background Mulesing is an important method of preventing flystrike of Merino sheep in Australia, but because there are important short-term welfare issues associated with mulesing, alternative methods of removing the skin folds for breech flystrike prevention are being investigated. Objective To examine the short-term systemic effects of mulesing and two proposed alternatives, compared with two control methods, for controlling breech flystrike. Method The five treatment groups comprised 10 lambs each: (1) mulesing, (2) intradermal-cetrimide treatment, (3) clip application, (4) tail docking only and (5) no treatment. Changes in body weight, haematological and biochemical profiles, and concentrations of fibrinogen, haptoglobin and serum amyloid A were measured repeatedly for 29 days post treatment. Results The mulesing and intradermal-cetrimide groups were the only treatment groups to lose weight during the first week, with greater weight loss in the mulesing group. The mulesing group had the most marked increases in all three acute-phase protein concentrations, closely followed by the intradermal-cetrimide group, with a mild increase observed for the clip group and even less for the tail-docked group. The mulesing group was the only group to develop mild anaemia, transient hyperglycaemia and a persistent decreased albumin:globulin ratio. The neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio was above the upper reference limit for both the mulesing and intradermal-cetrimide groups. Conclusion Mulesing had the greatest systemic effect in terms of the magnitude and duration of increased acute-phase protein concentrations and haematological, biochemical and body weight changes. The clips had a significantly reduced systemic effect compared with mulesing, with the intradermal-cetrimide treatment in between the two. Tail docking had a minimal systemic effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Veterinary Journal
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute phase response
  • Breech flystrike
  • Clinical pathology
  • Mulesing
  • Non-surgical mulesing
  • Sheep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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