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Market animal show and sales are common place across Wisconsin. These meat animal projects are a great venue to teach many valuable life lessons to the youth involved. Local businesses support the youth by buying their animals at elevated prices in the auctions. The prices paid for the champion animals is usually many times market price. The financial rewards of these projects have spurred youth participation and increased the competitive nature of the projects. But sometimes good intentions can run amuck. The allure of winning and receiving big payouts at the auction can over shadow the original goals. Teaching, which includes good husbandry practices and character development, was a priority of the projects initially. Now it seems that winning takes precedent; in this case, at the expense of animal welfare.

Docking lambs soon after birth is a routine management practice which is a generally recognized strategy to reduce fly strike later in the sheep’s life. In the past several decades as youth market lamb show and sales have become more popular, there has been a trend to dock show lambs shorter and shorter. The impetus for this shortening of the docked tail is to give the appearance of a more muscular rump and rear leg of the lamb, making it more competitive. Over this same time frame many in the sheep industry observed an increase in the incidence of rectal prolapses in these ultra-short docked lambs and suspected dock length to be a contributing factor. By this time, though, the UK already had established laws requiring that docked tails cover the genitalia of ewes and the anus of rams for health and animal welfare reasons.

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