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Scrapie Eradication Program: Implications for Virginia Sheep Industry

Livestock Update, February 2002

Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Sheep, VA Tech

Scrapie Eradication Program: Implications for Virginia Sheep Industry
As part of the National Scrapie Eradication Program, USDA-APHIS has instituted specific identification requirements for the interstate movement of sheep and goats. The purpose of this mandatory individual identification is to allow for diseased and exposed animals to be traced back to their flock/herd of origin so that the spread of scrapie can be prevented. Official identification is an eartag acquired through USDA.

These new regulations, which went into effect on November 19, 2001 has implications for producers marketing sheep in the state, and will also impact fairs and exhibitions involving sheep and goats.

The rules and regulations of the program require that all sheep over 18 months of age carry an official scrapie identification when marketed. Additionally, ewe lambs and ram lambs under 18 months of age are also required to have official eartags (unless they move directly to slaughter). Wether lambs under 18 months of age do not need to be identified in the program. Given these regulations, it is recommended that all sheep, except wethers, carry an official eartag when sold through Virginia market channels (through a livestock market, to a broker/dealer off the farm, through direct sales off the farm, or other means whereby sheep leave their flock of origin). By identifying all sheep (except wether lambs), producers can be assured that their sheep are eligible to sell to any potential market/buyer and move interstate when sold through Virginia livestock markets (ie. ewe lambs can then be sold and purchased as feeder lambs, potential replacements, and/or can go through slaughter channels). To prescribe to the federal regulations, all sheep that sell directly off the farm must also carry official identification (except wethers, and lambs under 18 months of age that move directly to slaughter at a local locker plant).

The identification requirements are rather simple to conform to for producers. The program components are as follows:


  1. The identification rule states that all sheep over 18 months of age (rams, ewes, wethers) have official identification for show/exhibition. This would apply primarily to breeding sheep exhibited at Virginia fairs.
  2. All breeding stock (ewes and rams), regardless of age, must have official scrapie identification for show/exhibition.
  3. Requirements for scrapie identification of market lambs will depend on the individual circumstances of each show. In any case, wether lambs do not need to have scrapie identification (provided they are under 18 months of age). Ewe lambs shown as market lambs will need to have scrapie identification if one of the following circumstances applies to the show/fair:
    1. there are out-of-state sheep present at the fair, or
    2. a structured sale takes place in conjunction with the market lamb show. If these ewe lambs are sold through a premium or fair sale ("sale" also applies to direct/contract sales which may not include a formal public auction) and do not move DIRECTLY to slaughter they need to have scrapie identification. If any structured sale is held/sponsored in conjunction with the fair/show these ewe lambs shown as market lambs need to have scrapie identification (the only exception is if they sell and move directly to slaughter- which in most cases would be a local locker plant).
  4. For fairs/shows that will have only Virginia sheep present, and there is no sale of any kind (all sheep return home), the only sheep that will require scrapie identification are breeding sheep. This will be the case for many local fairs.
  5. All sheep that are purchased this winter and spring for exhibition in the coming year should carry their scrapie identification from the breeder at the time of purchase. This would apply to all breeding stock, and also to ewe lambs to be shown as market lambs (wethers will not need scrapie ID). Therefore, many sheep that will require a scrapie eartag should already have one at the time they are purchased.

For more information on the National Scrapie Program visit

Questions may also be directed to Dr. Terry Taylor, state Veterinarian in charge for Virginia, at 804-771-2774.

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