Home > What is mulesing?

Mulesing involves cutting a crescent-shaped slice of skin from each side of the buttock area; the usual cut on each side is 5 – 7cm in width and extends slightly less than half way from the anus to the hock of the back leg in length. Skin is also stripped from the sides and the end of the tail stump. This surgical procedure is usually done without any anaesthetic. The large scars left after mulesing take several weeks to heal and are susceptible to infection and flystrike. The idea behind mulesing is to reduce flystrike which is when blowfly eggs laid on the skin of the sheep hatch into larvae which then feed on the sheep’s tissue. Whilst flystrike can be a risk to sheep it is a treatable condition. In flocks of hundreds of sheep, however, flystrike can be harder to detect and farmers are reluctant to spend the time monitoring the occurrence or treating any cases. If sheep were not bred in such large numbers for the animal food industry flystrike could be easily monitored and treated if it did occur. Sheep are now bred to have more wrinkly skin to increase the amount of wool so that creates a higher chance of fly strike.