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New Scrapie Interstate Shipment Requirements

Livestock Update, January 2000

Kevin D Pelzer DVM, MPVM, Virginia Tech

Scrapie is a neurological disease that affects sheep and goats. It has a very long incubation period, 1 to 7 years. There is no known cure or treatment for scrapie, and scientists do not fully understand how it is transmitted. Sheep can harbor the disease for up to five years before they show signs such as trembling, incoordination or scraping against objects. The disease in the past has been diagnosed by examining the brains of dead sheep but recently a live animal test has been developed. The new test uses an antibody to identify disease causing proteins in the animal's 3rd eyelid.

Scrapie is a type of spongiform encephalopathy of sheep and goats similar to the disease known as Mad Cow Disease. In fact, current theories suggest Mad Cow Disease in Britain may have arisen from sheep scrapie. Because of the international as well as national interest in this disease, APHIS, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service has opened a comment period from November 30 to December 30 for a proposal that would affect the interstate shipment of goats and sheep. The proposal is 9 CFR Parts 54 and 79 and can be found at

This is a summary of the currently proposed interstate shipment requirements. The proposal is approximately 22 pages long and reads like the Income Tax manual. This is currently what is proposed for interstate shipment of animals that have had no exposure to scrapie and come from scrapie free flocks. The sale or movement of breeding animals, show animals, need an individual identification and health certificate. Sale or movement directly to slaughter or through slaughter channels to slaughter, of animals under 6 months of age, no requirements. Sale or movement directly to slaughter or through slaughter channels to slaughter or animals of any age to feedlots for later movement to slaughter would require - animals over a year of age ( cull ewes for example) individual identification, animals between 6 months and a year old would require a premises identification. In essence, animals older than 6 months of age will require individual identification or identification so they can be traced back to the flock of origin. Individual identification is: electronic implants for animals required for use in the SFCP (Scrapie Flock Control Program), official eartags including tags used in the SFCP, USDA backtags, official sheep and goat tattoos when used in sheep or goats participating in the SCFP, official registry tattoos. Identification of individual animals will require extra time and commitment of producers.

The purpose of this proposal is to identify all positive scrapie animals and to place those infected flocks under quarantine. This will be useful in eradicating this disease from the United States which would free up some of the barriers of marketing lamb in the international market place. The identification of practically all slaughter animals, excepting those less than 6 months of age, will cause problems for producers as well as all ancillary services within the goat and sheep industries.

Dr. Ken Scheel, USDA-APHIS, will be speaking on the Volunary Scrapie Flock Certification Program at the Virginia North Carolina Shepherd's Symposium on January 7, 2000, in Harrisonburg, Va. This will be an opportunity to learn more about he Scrapie program as well as the potential impact that this new proposal will have on the sheep and goat industries within Virginia.

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