Saturday 3 February 2024

Dipping Sheep


Until 1993, it was a legal requirement in this country for all farmers to dip their sheep, as a means of controlling/eradicating external parasites.

The sheep would be forced to jump into the swim-pit, where they were to be “dunked” at least twice so that they were completely wet through to the skin.  I can remember my uncle doing this, and how much the sheep hated it.

It may have worked to eradicate parasites, but, unfortunately, knowledge about toxic chemicals and their effect on humans, animals, and the environment, was woefully lacking.

Many of the early dip chemicals had arsenic as a main component, and there are thousands of contaminated dip sites still existing around New Zealand.  Unbelievably, some of them are now being declared Heritage Sites, as evidence of early farming practices.

My grandfather died at the age of 36 years, and I now wonder if these chemicals played any part in his untimely death.  This is a photo of him in the early 1920s, dipping his sheep.

Generally, farm chemicals are more regulated now and there is much more awareness around safety issues.

Dipping sheep has become a thing of the past for most farmers, although there are some who prefer it as a superior method of controlling fly-strike.

Personally, I do not like the use of chemicals but I would much prefer to see them used responsibly, and thus avert much pain and suffering that an animal might otherwise endure, than to not use them at all.

It is a bit of a balancing act, really.

Margaret 😊



  1. I can’t imagine some of the harsh chemicals used in the past, and probably ones we don’t even know about today. I just read that some companies spray their wheat with Round-up weed killer so they will die faster and can be harvested quicker – that would be absorbed into the wheat itself – I was stunned. You’re right about old Farms – we’ve had so many pets die over the last couple of decades from cancer, and our vet said that a lot of old farms, simply dumped the chemicals somewhere on the farm – behind a barn or out in the field and even decades later they can have an effect on the animals. Thanks for a post that made me stop and think now I’m going to try and find out what companies use Round-Up!

    1. Killing off a crop with Roundup happens here as well. I know they do it with potatoes, and I feel it shows up in the quality of the potato - it goes watery (probably because it was harvested too early, as much as the result of the chemicals). It can be quite horrifying to start investigating these things.

  2. We are finally beginning to explore organic farming here, so that the number of chemicals used in potato farming are reduced and eventually eliminated. I’ll not live long enough to see that but it will happen one day.

    I can imagine what the chemicals used in farming would have been like in your grandfather’s day.

  3. It certainly is a balancing act between responsible use of (farm) chemicals, and animal welfare - I hate having to apply treatment for worms and fleas on my cat - thankfully there are no fleas this summer, but I still have to be aware of worms etc...
    I know of a farming friend who used a LOT of chemicals, weed spray in particular, with no protective gear worn, and he died barely into his 70's, having been diagnosed with motor neuron disease before that....

  4. All the chemicals used to kill the gorse which was introduced in the first place were pretty lethal too.

  5. I wonder what we are doing today that will be considered horrible years from now. It might be the insecticides or herbicides we are using, or something entirely different.

  6. I remember the farmers herding the sheep through the sheep dip when I was growing up in England, but I have no idea what chemicals were in the water. I'm sure it was something that would not be used today. Or would it?????

  7. It's definitely scaring when you start looking into what is still being used and what effect it has (and could have in the future) on us and our children.

  8. Arsenic? Probably. Isn't it a gradual killer over time, like it's not like cyanide that's instant but then I have to wonder about asbestos too


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