Auburn, Nov. 28--Enforcement of new
identification requirements for sheep and goats officially went into
effect Nov. 19, but officials with the U.S. Department of
Agricultureís Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
say they will be lenient until producers gain a better understanding
of the new rules.
Most sheep and some goats aged 18 months and older
are required to be officially identified under the new requirements,
part of a new federal program aimed at eradicating scrapie in the
Although the new rules already are in effect, and
many producers are still learning about the new requirements, many
states are still implementing an older inspection system. With this
in mind, USDA inspectors will initially focus most of their efforts
on educating producers about the new requirements rather than on
One group that will be especially impacted by the
new requirements are youngsters who participate in 4-H-sponsored
youth livestock shows. Beginning Jan. 1, 2002, state regulations
will require all sheep exhibited in youth livestock shows to be
ear-tagged with USDA-approved tags.
Sheep also must be tagged with USDA-approved tags
before a change of ownership occurs under any of the following
Sale by trade, private treaty or auction
Transport to a livestock market
Transport to a slaughter facility
In order to be eligible for interstate sales,
breeding sheep and goats also must be accompanied with a health
certificate known as a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.
However, only special categories of goats are
covered by the new requirements. This includes sexually intact goats
prior to transport to a show, fair, petting zoo or other
exhibitions. However, no tags will be required for goats that
already have registration papers and tattoos.
Goats used for milk production also are included
under the new guidelines, although tagging is not required for goats
with registration papers and tattoos. Likewise, goats pastured with
sheep must be tagged the same as sheep, unless they have
registration papers and tattoos.
Scrapie is a degenerative and eventually fatal
disease affecting the central nervous system. It is associated with
the presence of an abnormal protein known as a prion. It is among a
class of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies
(TSE), all of which have been linked with this abnormal protein.
The protein is also associated with bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or so-called mad cow disease in
cattle and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
Although scrapie has never been linked with humans,
recent publicity surrounding TSEs, coupled with limited scientific
knowledge about these diseases, has heightened public concerns.
There is currently no officially approved live test
for scrapie, and the only way to positively detect the disease is by
conducting a postmortem microscopic examination of the brain. In
addition, blood testing cannot reveal the presence of the prion,
although genotyping performed on the entire blood sample can predict
an animalís susceptibility or resistance to the disease.
Experts are hopeful a live animal test requiring a
biopsy of lymphoid tissue will be officially approved for official
use in the near future.
While scrapie is always fatal, it may take up to six
years or longer before clinical signs are even apparent.
Itís estimated the annual cost of scrapie to
producers is between $20 and $25 million. This does not include lost
export opportunities to two key competing countries, Australia and
New Zealand, the only two countries in the world recognized as
scapie-free. However, an indemnification program has been
established to minimize producer risks associated with scrapie. The
indemnification program is based on actual market prices, including
a premium for registered animals.
While scrapie exists in the United States, it is not
rampant, and eradication efforts are less costly than they would be
if the disease were left unchecked.
For more information, contact Dr. Cindy Brasfield,
APHIS veterinarian, at (251) 947-5218 or Dr. Tony Frazier, state
veterinarian, at 334-240-7255.
A comprehensive source of scrapie information is the
National Institute for Animal Agricultureís Scrapie Eradication