November 15, 2003
Nov. 2003 -- The following scrapie question-and-answer piece is the sixth such column to appear in Sheep Industry News. It is being brought to you by the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees the National Scrapie Eradication Program. If you have a program-related question you?d like answered, please e-mail it to Sheep Industry News Editor Laura Gerhard at firstname.lastname@example.org, fax it to her attention at (303) 771-8200 or write: ASI; Attn: Laura Gerhard, 6911 S. Yosemite St.; Centennial, CO 80112-1414.
Q: In the October Sheep Industry News it was again stated that the scrapie tag was not required for market lambs. I market lambs generally at less than 5 months of age and have had to tag all the lambs before they would accept them. I market the lambs at an auction in a neighboring state, which is about 75 miles north of our farm. I had not anticipated the need for that much tagging and will soon run out of the tags. Can you explain the need for this apparently unnecessary tagging?
A: The sheep identification requirements that were quoted in ASI Sheep Industry News were the minimum requirements of the national scrapie eradication program (NSEP). Individual states are free to make identification requirements more stringent for implementation of their animal disease prevention and control programs.
The requirements of the national scrapie eradication program state that ?lambs under 18 months of age going to slaughter do not need official identification.? When slaughter-age lambs travel interstate to an auction, the owner assumes that they will be purchased for slaughter. However, a state animal health official is also going to be concerned about those slaughter-aged lambs, mainly ewe lambs, that are purchased at the auction and diverted from slaughter channels to become replacement breeding ewes. This same concern is also addressed by NSEP in requiring ?ewe lambs less than 18 months of age leaving slaughter channels to be officially identified/ear tagged with records kept for 5 years.?
So the apparent contradiction in identification requirements is an individual state?s requirements to address its animal health concerns and to proactively address the potential for diversion of unidentified replacement breeding animals into the state?s breeding flocks.
When you are getting low on official scrapie program ear tags or have questions regarding sheep identification requirements call toll-free 866-USDA-TAG (866-873-2824).