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Sheep Update

Livestock Update, November 2001

Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, VA Tech

New Regulations in Effect for National Scrapie Eradication Plan
On September 20, 2001, new rules and regulations were released and published (became law) by USDA-APHIS in regards to identification of sheep. These new identification requirements are in response to the industry's effort to eradicate scrapie, with a goal of eliminating scrapie in the U.S. by 2010. Specifically, the identification requirements will allow for trace-back of infected sheep to their flock of birth/origin.

Effective November 19, the regulations require that all sheep over 18 months of age need to be officially identified before they enter interstate commerce. This will include primarily cull ewes and rams that are sold to livestock markets or dealers. Official ID is a metal tag issued by USDA-APHIS with an official flock ID number. Producers must secure these tags from USDA. In addition to cull ewes and rams, any breeding stock sold out of state, or breeding stock that goes to any show/exhibition/demonstration must also have the official ID in place. Market lambs (less than 18 months of age) that are sold and destined for slaughter will not need to have the ID.

There are two web sites where specific and more detailed information can be found on these regulations: and

Also, more information can be obtained from the USDA-APHIS veterinarian who coordinates the program in Virginia:
Dr. Terry L. Taylor
Washington Building, Room 605
1100 Bank Street
Richmond, VA 23219
phone (804) 771-2774

The following Q & A about the program have been excerpted from the National Institute of Animal Agriculture (

About Scrapie:

Q.What is Scrapie?
A.Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. There is no cure and there is no treatment for scrapie.

Q.What type of disease is scrapie?
A.Scrapie is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Both scrapie and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE; a.k.a. "Mad Cow" disease) are TSEs, as is Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and elk. While research has allowed us to gain a better understanding of the TSEs, there are still many facets of these diseases that are poorly understood.

Q.Why is scrapie eradication important?
A.The U.S. has had some form of a scrapie eradication or control program in place for many years. These were established to help increase animal health status and decrease production losses for producers. Infected flocks that contain a high percentage of susceptible animals can experience significant production losses. In flocks where scrapie is endemic the number of infected animals increases and the age at onset of clinical signs decreases over a period of several years making these flocks economically unviable. As an additional loss, the presence of scrapie also prevents the export of breeding stock, semen, and embryos to many other countries. More recently, increased attention and concern is being paid to all TSEs, including scrapie, as a result of the discovery of BSE in cattle, feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE) in cats and new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) in people in Europe. This increased concern has led to the following effects: 1) Packers and producers have had difficulty in disposing of sheep offal and dead sheep causing them to incur significant increases in disposal costs, 2) Other countries have expressed concerns and have indicated that they may prohibit or restrict certain ruminant products because the U.S. has scrapie, 3) Our domestic and international markets for sheep-derived meat and bone meal, have been adversely affected, and 4) The American Sheep Industry Association identified scrapie as a major impediment to the well-being of the U.S. sheep industry. The combination of all of these factors has led to the decision to develop a strong scrapie eradication program.

General Questions about the New Eradication Program:

Q.What are the key features of the new program, which are likely to make it more successful than previous eradication programs?
A.The key aspects of the new eradication program which will ultimately enable it to be successful are: 1. The ability to detect pre-clinical sheep through live animal testing and active slaughter surveillance. 2. The ability to trace infected animals to their flock/herd of origin as a result of the new identification requirements. 3. Providing effective clean-up strategies that will allow producers to stay in business, preserve breeding stock, and remain economically viable. USDA/APHIS will do this by providing the following to exposed and infected flocks/herds that participate in clean-up plans: a) Indemnity for high risk, suspect, and scrapie positive sheep and goats, which owners agree to destroy, b) Live-animal testing, and c) Genetic testing. 4. Testing of exposed animals that have been sold out of infected and source flocks/herds.

Q.What are the key requirements of the new eradication program?
A.The key requirements of the new program are: 1. That most breeding animals and all sheep 18 months of age and older be officially identified in order to be moved in interstate commerce. 2. That states meet minimum standards for state scrapie control in order to move breeding sheep and goats freely, interstate.

Q.What are the ID requirements for animals under 18 months of age?
A.Unless they have been bred or aborted, lambs of either sex intended for slaughter are not required to have an identification number or health certificates unless they are scrapie exposed or suspect animals.

Q.Why are most younger animals excluded from the system?
A.There are two reasons: Scrapie is a slow developing disease, which makes it difficult to detect the disease in animals under 18 months of age. The second and most significant reason that finished lambs intended for slaughter can be excluded is that the disease is spread primarily through contact with birthing fluid, making it unlikely that they would have spread the disease.

Q.Why are goats included in the program?
A.Goats are included in the program because infected goats must be traceable in order to identify exposed, infected or source herds and to provide indemnity to affected goat producers.

Q.Does the scrapie eradication program provide indemnity to producers?
A.Yes, producers whose flocks or herds are infected with scrapie will be eligible for reimbursement for animals that are depopulated.

Q.Will producers have other assistance if their flocks or herds are infected?
A.Yes, both the state and federal government animal health authorities will help the producer develop a plan to control and finally to eliminate the disease from their flock or herd. The testing required by the plan will be provided by APHIS and cooperating states.

Q.When will the ID requirements become mandatory?
A.Ninety days after the Interstate Movement Rule is published, the ID requirements will go into effect for most sheep and goats. This rule will go into effect in thirty days for all scrapie exposed and affected animals, and in 180 days for commercial whiteface breeding sheep less than 18 months of age.

What Producers Need to Do to Comply with the Identification System:

Q.Where does the producer begin?
A.By understanding that all animals need to be officially identified prior to leaving the premises based on the following criteria: 1) All breeding sheep. 2) All sheep over 18 months of age. 3) All scrapie exposed, suspect, test positive and high-risk animals. 4) Breeding goats except low-risk commercial goats. 5) Animals for exhibition.

Q.What is the second step?
A.Request a flock identification number and free ear tags from the local APHIS Veterinary Services Area Office or the State Veterinarian's Office. If you prefer to use a different kind of official tag, they may be purchased through specified, approved tag companies. A list of these approved tag companies will be maintained on the APHIS scrapie web page.

Q.What will the tags look like?
A.There are two different classes of tags: 1. USDA tags that are provided free to producers, which will be white metal or white plastic depending on the state. These will have assigned flock/premises identification number and a production number unique to the farm. 2. Producers can purchase official tags from approved tag companies. These tags will have an assigned flock/premises identification number, and a production number selected by the producer

Q.How do producers get tag application pliers?
A.Producers who request USDA provided tags during FY 2001 and 2002 will receive one pair of tag applicator pliers with their first order. They may buy additional pliers directly from the company. Markets will also be provided with pliers.

Q.When should producers tag their animals?
A.As a practical matter, most producers will tag their animals just prior to shipment.

Q.Can tattoos be used?
A.Individual registry tattoos issued by breed associations may be used as official identification. Holders of registry assigned tattoo prefixes should have these linked to their premises in the Scrapie National Database through their local APHIS Veterinary Services Area Office. Specifically about Goats and the Eradication Program.

Q.Why are goats included but treated differently than sheep under the new regulation?
A.The incidence of scrapie in goats is very low. When cases do occur they are usually caused by contact with infected sheep.

Q.How are the rules different for goats?
A.Goats in slaughter channels will not be required to carry individual identification numbers when they are moved in interstate commerce unless they are scrapie positive, high risk, exposed or from an infected or source herd. Commercial low-risk goats may be moved in interstate commerce without official USDA identification. However, many states require a certificate of veterinary inspection for movement into their state. Commercial low-risk goats: are raised for fiber and meat, are not registered or exhibited, have not been exposed to sheep, are not scrapie positive, high-risk, or exposed animals, and are not from an infected or source herd. Sexually intact goats used for exhibitions such as fairs, shows, demonstrations and petting zoos or that are registered will be required to carry individual identification numbers and have health certificates to cross state lines. Goats with legible registry tattoos that are registered with a goat registry and that are accompanied by a copy of a health certificate listing registry information or a copy of their registry certificate do not require any additional identification.

Q.Where can additional information be found?
A.Current information on scrapie is also available on the Internet at USDA's official scrapie website,, contact your local APHIS Veterinary Services Area Office by calling 1-866-USDA-TAG (873-2824), or on the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) website,

Wool payments issued by FSA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Services Agency (FSA) this week issued 2001 wool payments to U.S. sheep producers. Some $17 million in direct payments to producers for fiscal year 2001 was secured by the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and was authorized by Congress in August as part an agricultural assistance package. The payment rate was approximately 36 cents per pound. Producers who applied for and received wool payments in 2000 automatically received 2001 payments. FSA offices automatically processed payments based on the 2000 payment applications and sent producers deposit information on the amount paid. The 2001 wool payments combined with other wool payments and lamb payments resulted in $60 million paid to growers and feeders in the last 12 months. -from ASI.

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