Revised Sheep Welfare Code Published

4 September 1996

The new Animal Welfare Advisory Committee’s (AWAC) Code of Recommendations and Minimum Standards for the Welfare of Sheep has been released.

The code is a comprehensive revision of the same titled code, published in 1992. The 40-paged revised code complements legislation by outlining the minimum standards for sheep welfare which are currently acceptable. It is a practical guide for those involved in sheep production, and is intended to encourage the adoption of the highest standards of sheep husbandry. It does not deal extensively with transportation, meat-plants, saleyards or experimentation as these are areas dealt with in other codes issued by AWAC.

AWAC was established by the Minister of Agriculture eight years ago, with the view to facilitate the development of animal welfare policy and practice in New Zealand and provide a balanced and independent national forum for discussion on animal welfare issues.

The code was written by a working group established by AWAC, and was extensively reviewed and amended by leaders of the sheep farming community, which included farmers, vets, teachers and welfarists.

The code covers minimum standards, recommendations and statutory requirements for issues which include appropriate feed, water, shelter, methods of restraint, lambing, breeding, fostering and artificial rearing, weaning, mustering and yarding, injuries, castration, shearing, crutching and humane slaughter.

Under the Animals Protection Act 1960, it is an offence to allow an animal to suffer unnecessary or unreasonable pain or distress. The breach of a code provision, while not an offence in itself, can be used as evidence to establish guilt of anyone accused of an offence under the Act.

The code has an extensive section on tail docking which is carried out to help prevent faecal dag formation, flystrike and to facilitate shearing. The section covers the age of lambs when docking should occur, the technique used, and the tail length.

The committee recommends shearing to be carried out at least once a year. Shearing sheds and equipment must have regular maintenance checks. Shear cuts should be kept to a minimum, and sheep should not be shorn if the forecast is for cold weather.

There is also an extensive section on disease and its control, which covers internal and external parasitism, flystrike, trace element deficiencies, diseases related to feeding, diseases of the feet, tooth faults, facial eczema, ryegrass staggers, bearing retention, Johne’s Disease, plant poisoning, vaccination, diseases in organic farming systems and breeding for resistance to disease.

AWAC member Marjorie Orr said the code reflected changing opinions and attitudes in society, particularly in the farming community. “Husbandry practices have changed a lot in recent years and research has resulted in improved techniques that animals can benefit from. The code of recommendations complements the legislation, but it’s also an educational aid for sheep owners, in particular the inexperienced. It’s intended to be comprehensive and practical.”

For further information:

Dr Marjorie Orr
Invermay Animal Health Laboratory, Dunedin
Ph: (03) 4893809 / Fax: (03) 4897988

Copies of the report can be purchased for a nominal cost by contacting:

Mrs Pam Edwards, Animal Welfare and Environment Section
MAF Regulatory Authority, PO Box 2526, Wellington
Ph: (04) 4744129/ or fax: (04) 4744133



Last Updated: 07 September 2010

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33