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October Sheep Update

Livestock Update, October 1996

Steve Umberger, Animal & Poultry Sciences

1996 VA-NC Shepherds' Symposium Scheduled For December 5-6. The 1996 VA-NC Shepherds' Symposium will be held at Virginia Tech, located in Blacksburg, VA, on December 5 and 6. The primary purpose of the Symposium is to provide a comprehensive educational program for sheep producers throughout the mid- Atlantic region of the U.S. The program will start at 1:30 p.m. at the Virginia Tech Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center with a full afternoon of in-depth information on sheep diseases and health management. An awards banquet will be held that evening featuring an after dinner speaker who will have a number of anecdotes about livestock production to share with the audience. The Friday educational program will begin at 8:30 a.m. Some of the management and production topics to be covered include: 1) an outlook on sheep production in the U.S.; 2) an update on the sheep industry in New Zealand and Australia; 3) an update on the "heavy muscle" (callipyge) gene in sheep; 4) information on artificial insemination with sheep; 5) using performance records with commercial and purebred sheep; 6) sheep grazing and lamb feeding management; 7) current techniques for coyote control; and 8) sheep producer presentations on commercial production, purebred production, and niche marketing of lamb. For a copy of the program brochure and pre-registration information call or write Dr. Steve Umberger, Department of Animal & Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 24061- 0306, (540)231-5253.

Genetic Engineering Becoming An Important Part Of The U.S. Sheep Industry. Presentations made at the National Sheep Genetics Symposium held in Columbus, Ohio from September 5-7, 1996, showed how genetic engineering is being used as a tool in the sheep industry to help select sheep that may genetically resistant to scrapie. Scientists have been able to identify gene sequences in sheep DNA that are associated with the relative susceptibility of sheep to scrapie. At some point in the not too distant future, it may be possible for producers to take blood samples from sheep they have selected for replacements and have them tested for their susceptibility to scrapie. Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease of the central nervous system of sheep. It is in the same broad category of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies as BSE, which is commonly referred to as "Mad Cow Disease." A comprehensive session on BSE, scrapie, and the selection of sheep for genetic resistance to scrapie will be a part of the 1996 VA-NC Shepherds' Symposium.

Treat Sheep Foot Problems Before This Winter. The extreme wet conditions that persisted in many parts of Virginia this past summer resulted in an explosion of foot problems throughout the State. In many cases, these problems were nothing more than "foot scald", which is an infection of the skin between the toes. It is manifested in sheep exposed to wet conditions over an extended period of time. Oftentimes, foot scald will disappear when drier conditions return. However, the healing process can be accelerated by placing sheep through a footbath containing a solution of 10% zinc sulfate or by catching infected sheep and treating their feet directly with a solution of copper sulfate (Kopertox). Ovine foot rot is much more difficult to deal with, because it will not go away on its on. The only way for sheep to be infected with foot rot is to come in contact with sheep already infected or come in contact with the foot rot organism where infected sheep have spread it on the ground or in their bedding. In other words, foot rot is only manifested on farms through the purchase of infected animals or through the use of facilities or trucks contaminated by infected sheep. Research has shown that the combination of foot trimming, foot soaks, and the foot rot vaccine can be used to eradicate foot rot from the flock. A complete description of foot rot eradication from sheep is contained in a Virginia Cooperative Extension Sheep Publication titled "Control, Treatment, and Elimination of Foot Rot from Sheep", (#410-028). Contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office for a copy of the publication.

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