Scrapie Eradication Program

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the brain, muscles, and central nervous system of sheep and goats. The disease is believed to be caused by an abnormal protein, known as a prion, which acts as the infectious and contagious agent. Scrapie is likely spread from mother to offspring and/or other herd/flock members through contact with afterbirth. Sheep or goats infected with the disease may exhibit behavioral changes due to damaged nerve cells. These signs progress until the animal dies. There is currently no cure or treatment for scrapie.

Minnesota is part of a nationwide program to eliminate scrapie across the United States. As part of the scrapie Eradication Program, anyone who buys or sells sheep or goats in Minnesota is required to register with the Board. In addition, all sheep and goats must be officially identified when they leave the farm and before they are commingled with sheep or goats from other flocks or herds. Official identification is important because it makes it possible to trace a diseased or exposed animal to its flock of origin where disease control strategies can be implemented.

The Scrapie Eradication Program consists of the following components:

  • Identification of infected sheep or goats through nationwide slaughter surveillance
  • Tracing of infected animals to their flock or herd of origin
  • Quarantine and testing of exposed animals sold from an infected or source flock or herd
  • Voluntary genetic testing of sheep to determine susceptibility to scrapie

Producers may register their herd/flock online, fax/mail an official registration form, or sign-up by phone at 651-201-6809.

General Requirements for Owning Sheep and Goats

Official Identification

All sheep and goats, including wethers, must be officially identified upon movement from one flock to another and before they are commingled with sheep and goats from other flocks and herds. Minnesota producers can obtain free official scrapie ear tags by calling the Board at 651-201-6809 or by filling out the online order form.

Producers should never allow other producers to use their official scrapie ID tags. If an animal loses an ear tag, it can be replaced with an official scrapie tag assigned to the producer as long as records indicate the animal’s origin. When the animals’ origin is unknown, producers should not use their assigned scrapie tags to replace the lost ID. For more information regarding lost ear tags, contact the Board at 651-201-6809.

 

Record Requirements

Anyone who applies official identification that has been assigned to a producer must maintain the following records:

  • date the identification was applied;
  • number of sheep and goats identified;
  • identification numbers applied; and
  • name and address of the flock of birth, if different from the current flock.

Anyone who applies official identification that is not assigned directly to the producer must maintain the following records:

  • date the identification was applied;
  • number of sheep and goats identified;
  • serial tag numbers applied; and
  • name and address of the flock where the animal currently or most recently resided.

All records pertaining to the movement of sheep and goats must be maintained for at least five years after the sale or disposition of the animal. Records must be available for inspection and copying at any reasonable time by an authorized agent of the Board.

 

Scrapie Susceptibility and Genetics

Genetic testing also referred to as DNA testing or genotyping can determine a sheep’s susceptibility to scrapie. Scrapie resistance is determined by gene factors called codons. The most important codons relating to scrapie resistance are the codons numbered 171 and 136.

A blood sample is all that is required to test for scrapie susceptibility. It should be noted that genotyping only indicates an animal’s susceptibility to the disease and not the presence or absence of the actual scrapie disease agent.

In general, codon 171 yields “Q” or “R” factors and codon 136 yields “A” or “V” factors. It is desired to breed with rams that have at least one “R” factor. Selecting and retaining rams with “RR” in their genetic code will have the most impact on developing a scrapie-resistant flock.

Genotypes related to scrapie susceptibility
QQAA – highly susceptible QRAA – rarely susceptible
QQAV – highly susceptible QRAV – susceptible to some strains
QQVV – highly susceptible QRVV – susceptible to some strains
RRAA – Scrapie resistant genotype

At this time, there are no approved official genetic tests for goats. The United States Department of Agriculture is currently conducting research in order to determine which codons affect scrapie susceptibility in goats.

Genotype testing is available through private veterinarians, or the test may be conducted by producers for management purposes. For further information regarding genotype testing, and for a list of approved laboratories, contact the Board at 651-201-6809.

 

Scrapie Flock Certification Program

The Scrapie Flock Certification Program (SFCP) is a voluntary program for sheep and goat producers to enhance the marketability of their animals by certifying their flock as scrapie-free. The SFCP monitors flocks by through annual inspections and/or testing of animals depending on which enrollment option is chosen.

The longer a flock is enrolled and in compliance with program requirements, the greater the likelihood that the flock is scrapie-free. The United States Department of Agriculture registers flocks and maintains records.

For more information, including a list of enrolled flocks, approved ear tags, and program requirements and standards, visit the USDA Scrapie-Free Flock Certification Program web page.

To apply for the SFCP, contact Kelly Neisen at 651-260-4570 or by email at kelly.j.neisen@aphis.usda.gov.

Ovine Progressive Pneumonia

Ovine progressive pneumonia (OPP) is a slowly progressive viral disease that affects nearly half of Minnesota sheep flocks and results in reduced profits. Caprine arthritis-encephalitis (CAE) is a similar disease of goats. Common early signs are a general loss of body condition and labored breathing or coughing while at rest. The virus can also cause “hard bag,” an enlarged, firm udder with little or no milk flow, as well as swollen joints and lameness. Once infected, animals remain so for life though many will never exhibit clinical signs of disease.

There is no vaccine or cure, and standard eradication methods involve costly rigid culling of test-positive animals and/or orphan rearing of young stock. Minnesota is currently trialing a less expensive eradication method. For more information, see the OPP information below.

OPP Pilot Program

In 2006 the Board of Animal Health introduced a voluntary OPP/CAE test and control program. Originally offered as an optional add-on component of USDA’s voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program, the pilot is now a stand-alone program and any flock/herd in Minnesota is eligible to apply.

For more information, read the OPP/CAE Pilot Program. To apply to the program complete the application for OPP/CAE Pilot Program and follow the instructions for submitting the form to the Board of Animal Health.

OPP Pilot Program Test-Negative Status Flocks
Flock Owner Farm Location Enrollment Date Breed/Species
Michael Curley Curley Family Suffolks
Windom, MN 56101
7/11/06 SU: Suffolk Sheep
Margo/Ray Hanson Marsh Creek Crossing
Twin Valley, MN 56584
3/2/09 BL: Border Leicester Sheep
Judy Lewman Spring Creek Farm
Minnetrista, MN 55364
3/24/06 BL: Border Leicester Sheep
Thomas McDowell Misty Meadow Icelandics
Minnetrista, MN 55364
4/6/06 IC: Icelandic Sheep
Bets Reedy Bramble Hill
Houston, MN 55943
8/2/06 CF: Clun Forest Sheep
Tim Reese Gale Woods Farm
Minnetrista, MN 55364
3/3/06 Finn / Corriedale / Border Leicester Crosses
Updated: November 13, 2013

OPP Eradication Trial

In 2013, an OPP Eradication Trial was initiated as part of this program with the selected producers testing an alternative eradication strategy based on recent research findings. This is a collaborative effort of the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Association, the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and College of Veterinary Medicine, USDA APHIS Veterinary Services and the Board of Animal Health.

Applications are no longer being accepted for this trial, but the method being studied can be applied in any flock. View the OPP Eradication Trial outline for more information.