Numnuts are coming! A new and novel rubber ring applicator is set to adorn our stores by spring 2021. This will be good news for lambs, as the world-first device has been shown to deliver close to 70% pain reduction in lambs after ring application, leading to faster mothering-up, less mismothering and smoother paddock return post docking/tailing. With a development timeline stretching back to the mid-1990s, Numnuts is set to revolutionise lamb marking.

Released into Australia in 2019, 200,000 lambs received its benefits in the first year.

Rigorously engineered and validated, practical, safe, and easy to use, it is a handheld device that applies elastrator rings over the lamb’s tail (and also scrotum if required) while simultaneously allowing the user to inject local anaesthetic to provide pain relief. Injecting the local pain relief, takes a skilled veterinary procedure (a nerve block with a local anaesthetic) and, with the aid of a specific applicator, makes it straightforward and safe enough for farmers to use at production scale in the field, where lambs are being tailed at the rate of many hundreds a day. In developing the tool, the angle of attack was looked at along with the depth of needle penetration, as well as the accuracy of dosage along with the ergonomics of the design.

Detailed research studies have been carried out on both Merinos and crossbred lambs in Australia.  These have revealed a significant reduction in pain-related behaviours (such as “tucked up” posture, bleating, lying down and rolling around) when using the Numnuts tool compared to using just rubber rings. When timing lambs going back to their mums after marking with rubber rings, it was shown that 30-40% of lambs had not found their mothers after 3 minutes, whereas lambs marked with Numnuts reduced the number to 10-20%.

Farmers involved in beta testing the device have been very positive, because they could physically see the difference, with a common feature being that lambs were quieter in the yards and were easier to return to the paddock.

It is important to note that, while pain relief for lambs at tailing is currently by no means compulsory in either New Zealand or Australia, our Australian cousins have embraced the Numnuts device like a duck to water. Watch this space closely.

Ivan Holloway