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Rubbing Tool

Rubbing Tool


The rubbing assessment allows users to determine the cause (or causes) of rubbing in their sheep. However, it is also used by the Short Wool assessment and the Long Wool assessment to determine specifically whether Lice are the cause of rubbing in that particular case.

For short wool assessment, the result (probability of lice), is used by the Short Wool assessment calculations.

The Long Wool assessment does not use the result directly, although that program does assume that the rubbing is due to lice. The result will not be correct if it is due to other causes.

Click on the Start button below to begin, then use the Next button to proceed through the stages. Should you wish to change any options chosen in previous stages then use the Back button to step backwards and modify your selections.


  1. Look for lice on the sheep most affected by rubbing.
  2. Inspect about 10 sheep, checking 5 partings on each side.
  3. You can stop as soon as you find any lice.

Very low numbers of lice can cause sheep to rub. You may have to inspect many wool partings to find them.

If you cannot find lice, you need to check the items on the page "Lice not seen" because there are many reasons why you might not be able to find lice even if they were the cause of rubbing.

Conditions may not be suitable for seeing lice even if they are present.

Lice are only 2mm long. You need good vision and good lighting. It is much easier to recognise lice if you have seen them before.

Chemical treatments that affect lice may suppress them so that you are unable to see any even though they are present and causing rubbing.

Can you see any lice?

Lice not seen

How many

Good vision and light?

Can you recognise lice?

Sheep information

Grass seeds

Seeds or burrs from plants such as barley grass, spear grass and erodium ('geranium' or corkscrew) can work their way down to skin level and penetrate the skin to cause irritation and rubbing or biting. This is mostly seen in late spring and summer.

Are there many grass seeds penetrating the skin?


Itchmite is not common when macrocyclic lactone (ML) drenches (e.g. Ivermectin) are part of the usual drench rotation and dips containing rotenone or sulphur give some itchmite control.

ML drench used in the last 12 months?

Dipped in rotenone or sulphur?

If itchmites are suspected, skin scrapings may be tested, but may give negative results even if mites are present.

Skin scrapings positive for itchmite?

Wool break

Wool breaks follow nutritional stress or disease such as flystrike. It will be over the entire fleece if a break is causing wool loss.

Is there a wool break?

Bush rub

Rubbing may occur in sheep running in bush, crop stubble or other plants high enough to rub on the body as the sheep walk through.

This usually shows as a light wispy tip on the sides of the body, sometimes with wool tags where the fleece has snagged on a twig and will be seen on most sheep in the mob, without becoming severe on any sheep.

Could it be 'bush rub'?

Other causes

Some breeds of sheep shed their fleece naturally in spring through to mid-summer. During this time some itchiness and rubbing may be shown. These breeds include Wiltshire Horn, Dorper and Damara and their crosses.

Is the rubbing due to natural shedding?

Photosensitivity can lead to sheep rubbing their faces and ears on the ground. Typically the ears will be swollen with fluid and hanging down. Facial eczema, which is a severe form of photosensitivity caused by liver damage, can result in extensive skin damage.

Are there signs of photosensitivity?

Could it be some other cause not covered elsewhere, such as fleece rot, dermo, flystrike, backline dermatitis (sunburn), etc?

Exotic disease

Some exotic diseases such as scrapie, sheep pox, lumpy skin diseases and Aujesky's disease can cause itchiness and rubbing, among other symptoms. Rapid diagnosis is critical to minimise the impact of an exotic disease. Owners are obliged to report cases where an exotic disease is suspected.

Are there unusual deaths, illness, nervous signs or skin lesions associated with rubbing?