By EMMA HOPKINS-O’BRIEN
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Goat exhibitors planning to attend open or 4-H shows this summer may need to review a federal new scrapie regulation to make sure their animals’ identification is up to code.
Scrapie, a disease that causes serious and, eventually, lethal neurological symptoms, is known to exclusively affect sheep and goats. A scrapie rule first proposed in 2015 requiring goat owners in all states to adhere to the same identification requirements sheep owners have been following for years has finally been published by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
The rule affects the transport of sexually intact sheep and goats, and aims to ensure the Scrapie Eradication Program (SEP) is able to trace diseased animals to their flocks of origin. Such traceability is important for animals on the show circuit that may move across state lines and onto other premises quite often.
Indiana’s designated scrapie epidemiologist, Dr. Cheryl Miller, said producers have made tremendous strides in eliminating scrapie from the United States, but the progress needs to continue by finding every last animal that may be harboring the disease.
“As recently as the summer of 2018, a positive farm was identified in Pennsylvania that consisted of both sheep and goats,” Miller said. “The last positives found in Indiana were identified in January 2016 in a sheep flock.”
Under the new rule, goat owners must identify animals before allowing them to commingle with sheep or goats from another flock, and they must also have official identification, which may be in the form of ear tags, tattoos, or chips.
“To date, no goats in Indiana have been found positive for scrapie,” Miller noted. “But some have been found in surrounding states.”
Some states, such as Indiana, already have the requirements indicated by the new rule in place for goats. Those that do not, including Tennessee, will need to inform their goat producers. Tennessee State Veterinarian Dr. Charlie Hatcher said the new rule will ultimately benefit producers.
“Scrapie is a serious disease that must be eradicated,” he said. “Having official identification for our goats in Tennessee will significantly improve the chances of accomplishing that goal.”
Individuals hauling sheep or goats to slaughter or other premises must have an owner/hauler statement that provides identification information for the animals and their flock of origin. However, wethers less than 18 months of age are exempt from such ID.
Because most goats transported by exhibitors are already identified by a health certificate – which is usually required at competitions – some will not need an owner/hauler statement when transporting their animals. However, moving a flock across state lines for any other reason – to access another premises used for grazing, for example – will require an owner/hauler statement, unless a health certificate is already obtained.
Goat owners new to the scrapie program and who are requesting their flock ID number for the first time may receive assistance in obtaining tags. APHIS will provide up to 80 free plastic ear tags to producers who have not accepted free tags from APHIS in the past. However, it will no longer provide free metal tags to producers, as it did previously.
To request official tags and/or premises IDs, producers should call 866-873-2824. Producers can find specifics of the new rule on APHIS’ Sheep and Goat Identification website through www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information