By Dr. Gary S. Ross, DVM ▪ National Center for Animal Health Programs ▪ Eradication and Surveillance Team ▪ Scrapie Unit ▪ U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Veterinary Services
November 2004 -- In the last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Serivce (APHIS) has identified more than 50 infected flocks through slaughter surveillance. This number could be doubled next year if all breeding sheep including culls are officially identified by producers prior to leaving their flock of birth.
Monitoring activities at two major cull sheep slaughter facilities have shown that the level of compliance was less than 80 percent 11 out of 14 months (seven months at each plant) with some months having less than 45 percent of the sheep being properly identified. In order for scrapie slaughter surveillance to be effective, the level of identified breeding sheep must be increased. For this to happen producers must commit to identifying all breeding sheep and mature cull sheep before they leave their premises.
The sheep and goat industries as the result of the scrapie eradication program are presently the only traditional livestock species to have a national identification program. To some this may be viewed as a handicap. However, in reality this is an advantage for sheep and goat producers in that it will allow for a smooth transition into the national animal identification system (NAIS). Sheep and goat owners will be able to continue with the National Scrapie Eradication Program?s (NSEP) present ID system with gradual implementation of ID technologies that will allow the ultimate NAIS goal of 48-hour traceback of animals for national biosecurity purposes. The ID devices used in the eradication program are free to the producer and can be obtained by contacting the USDA/APHIS Veterinary Service area office in your state (1-866-USDA-TAG). This number may also be used to request indemnity and testing for suspect animals.
The following is a summary of the identification requirements for the NSEP. Some states may have additional requirements. To make certain you have the latest state-specific information, contact the state veterinarian?s office in your home state and the state veterinarian in any state to which you send animals for sale, exhibition, grazing, feeding or slaughter.
BASICS OF SHEEP AND GOAT IDENTIFICATION
Animals required to be officially identified include:
? all breeding sheep of any age including ewe lambs that may be used as replacements;
? all sexually intact sheep and goats for exhibition;
? all sheep more than18 months of age;
? breeding goats, except low-risk commercial goats; and
? animals from scrapie-affected flocks.
Animals not required to be individually identified include:
? slaughter sheep (sheep in slaughter channels) under 18 months (Note: If a sexually intact sheep is sold at an unrestricted sale (any sale that is not a slaughter or feeding-for-slaughter sale), it must be identified.);
? wethers for exhibition;
? slaughter goats (goats in slaughter channels);
? low-risk commercial goats;
? animals shipped directly to an approved slaughter facility or an approved market when all the animals in a section of a truck are from the same premises of origin and are accompanied by an owner?s statement. (Note: The owner?s statement must contain the information needed for the plant or market to identify the animals.); and
? animals moved for grazing or similar management reasons, whenever the animals are moved from a premises owned or leased by the owner of the animals to another premises owned or leased by the owner of the animals.
The owner of the flock of origin is the primary person responsible for officially identifying animals.
The starting point for official identification numbers is the allocation of a premises identification number to each sheep and goat owner. As of Aug. 16, 2004, 51 percent of the U.S. sheep and goat premises counted in the 2002 census by National Agricultural Statistics Service have been issued premises identification numbers. The Area VS office or the state Veterinarian?s office will issue a premises identification number and order ear tags for each sheep or goat owner when requested by calling 1-866-USDA-TAG.
The owner of the flock of origin, or the owner?s agent, must officially identify any animal that requires official identification before putting it in the same enclosure with animals from a different flock of birth. Animals born on a premises do not have to be identified when officially identified animals from another flock of birth are added to the premises.
Producers are strongly encouraged to identify their animals officially, whenever it is practical to do so, before they leave their premises to prevent any error from occurring in the later identification of the animals and to ensure that they will meet the interstate movement requirements.
If official identification has not been placed on the animal by the owner before leaving the flock of origin, the owner must ensure that the animal is officially identified before it is put in the same enclosure with animals from a different flock of origin.
Responsibility of persons handling sheep and goats in commerce to identify animals.
A person who delivers, as well as the person who receives, an animal that is required to be identified to a place where it will be put in the same enclosure with animals from a different flock of origin must ensure that the animal is officially identified to its premises of origin before co-mingling with animals from a different flock and before a change of ownership.
Records required of producers who apply official identification to their own animals.
Persons who apply official identification assigned directly to the owner of the premises of origin of the animal must maintain the following records:
(1) the date the animals were officially identified;
(2) the number of sheep and the number of goats identified;
(3) the premises number or serial numbers applied. (Note: Pre-existing tags do not have to be recorded, although this is encouraged.); and
(4) for animals born after Jan. 1, 2002, in another flock and not already identified to flock of birth, the name and address of the owner of the flock of birth, if known.
These records need to be kept by the owner for five years after the animals are sold or otherwise disposed of.