Agriculture Victoria Livestock Welfare Compliance program manager Sarah Chaplin said sheep with more than one year’s wool growth were highly susceptible to heat stress and disease and those with over-long fleeces are also more likely to become cast — lying on their side and unable to rise.
“A person who allows sheep in their care to grow excessively long fleeces may be exposed to cruelty provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2019,” Dr Chaplin said.
“Under the regulations, a person must not allow the fleece of a sheep to grow to a length greater than twice the average annual growth for the breed of sheep or more than 250mm (whichever is shorter).”
Dr Chaplin said most sheep producers undertake shearing annually and won’t have issues complying with this requirement.
“People that keep sheep as pets also need to ensure they plan ahead and arrange for their sheep to be shorn annually.”
Dr Chaplin said all people who own or manage sheep must take appropriate actions to prevent their sheep’s wool becoming over-long.
“Sheep with excessive fleece length are at increased risk of heat stress, becoming cast and serious animal health issues such as flystrike.
“This regulation applies to anyone responsible for sheep, including sheep kept for commercial or hobby reasons.
“Anybody who owns or is in charge of sheep can be fined for having sheep with excessive wool growth.
“It’s also important anyone responsible for sheep consider the time of year they undertake shearing, particularly during the colder months when adverse weather conditions can have serious impacts on the welfare of sheep.
“Freshly shorn sheep should be placed into paddocks that contain proper and sufficient shelter to protect them from adverse weather conditions.”