Multi-Pronged Approach to Eradicate Scrapie

Multi-Pronged Approach to Eradicate Scrapie

By JUDY MALONE

ASI Director of Industry Information

(June 1, 2013) Since 2004, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have entered into an annual cooperative agreement to aid in the eradication of scrapie in the United States.

According to John Clifford, DVM, deputy administrator for Veterinary Services, the measured prevalence of scrapie has been reduced by 96 percent since 2003. The prevalence of scrapie is now .006 percent or, more clearly stated, only one in every 20,000 sheep is inflicted with scrapie. 

The purpose of the cooperative agreements is to facilitate the rapid eradication of scrapie by providing education to producers to encourage compliance with the identification, record keeping and movement requirements of the program and to enhance the ability of producers to identify and report affected animals. APHIS and ASI cooperate in the development of educational materials that is overseen by ASI. 

Under this agreement, each of the ASI state-member organizations is eligible to apply for funding to assist with the eradication of scrapie at the state level. States typically received $1,000. 

The State Outreach Program is impressive, both in terms of the number and of the diversity of activities that are conducted. Such a program allows for the selection and tailoring of activities as determined by those in state leadership positions, thereby allowing for the correlation of specific information for specific audiences on a state-by-state basis. 

Developing educational materials, holding meetings and hosting speakers have been some of the more traditional uses of outreach funds. Many state associations are ill-funded when it comes to the ability to finance educational courses and professional speakers. From brochures and posters to displays and presentations, there have been a large number of educational materials developed about scrapie as a result of this program.

As the world becomes a more digital place, a number of state associations thought to update their websites to include information on scrapie and the eradication program. Along with detailed information, the sites offer one-click access to APHIS reference material. Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin are just a few of the states that offer this resource to producers.

Vermont and Michigan, undertook the lofty goal of creating a scrapie educational video to address the needs for the scrapie program and to explain what is involved inparticipation. The Vermont video takes the viewer through a step-by-step process from registering a farm to applying for tags to selling an animal at an auction facility. It specifically speaks to how the program protects the industry and ultimately protects the producer.  

The Michigan association combined its efforts by incorporating a segment about scrapie identification in a newly designed informational video created to generate interest in the sheep industry. These DVDs were provided, free of charge, to extension personnel, producers and students and used in promotional displays as well as posted on its website.

Through its Producer’s Roundtable Program, the state of Wisconsin developed courses like Plans for Genetic Improvement, Don’t Buy Problems!, The Scrapie Challenge: So Where are We and Sheep 101 — Getting Started: Resources for Beginning Shepherds.
Special recognition is given to South Carolina and Pennsylvania for their creative use of the outreach funds.

Each year, the Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Growers Association, with the assistance of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, created a unique item to share at sheep events during the year. One item was a water bottle printed with an “Eradicate Scrapie” sheep logo listing contact numbers for additional information. A clipboard showing approved scrapie tags, tag positioning and common tagging methods was handed out followed the next year with a t-shirt bearing a clever graphic of sheep donning eartags and the phone number to order scrapie tags. The Pennsylvania group also distributed calendars on two different occasions that provided detailed information about the scrapie eradication program and the rules and regulations of the program. 

The South Carolina Sheep Industry Association created an informational display and a Plinko board game to be used at sheep shows, fairs, meetings and wherever groups of sheep producers gather. The display is large, colorful and full of photos and information to help producers learn the methods to detect and eradicate scrapie. The Plinko game draws attention to the information, provides interaction for the learner and creates an awareness of the difficulties in controlling the disease without premise registration.

It is acknowledged that young producers are the future of the sheep industry as well as of agriculture in general. Many of the outreach programs rightfully focused attention on this segment of the industry. 

In Nevada, a scrapie module was added to the mandatory Youth Quality Assurance (QA) Program used by 4-H and FFA members as well as the Nevada Junior Livestock Show (NJLS) participants. Youth must pass an exam at the completion of the QA curriculum to be allowed to show at the NJLS. More than 300 youth were certified in 2010 alone.

In Michigan, high school students are encouraged to research and learn about scrapie through an essay contest.

The Tennessee Sheep Producers Association holds an awards program for juniors who purchased ewes and lambs at the sheep sale each year in April. The scrapie ear tag number is inspected and recorded for each animal. At the State Junior Sheep Expo in July, the scrapie ear tags are again inspected to determine eligibility for the show. The purpose of this activity is to remind junior exhibitors about the importance of each animal being identified with a scrapie tag.

Mentors were established to help young producers better manage their flocks in Florida. Youth who are inexperienced with sheep are most likely to be at risk. Therefore, the Meat Sheep Alliance of Florida (MSA) educator certification program is gaining interest with the youth, as well as with small flock producers, as interest in the sheep industry grows. This process has resulted in more people asking and understanding how flock management helps them maintain a scrapie-free environment for Florida. 

Additional outreach to small-farm sheep flocks was also a goal in Nevada. New producers, small-farm sheep flock operators, hobbyist and individuals seeking information regarding sheep production have been the principle audience for Nevada’s adult educational efforts.

A measure of the success of the program lies in the fact that a number of states boast of no or fewer disease outbreaks since the inception of the state outreach program.

Vermont indicates that its producers, who sell both in and out of state, have been in full compliance with the scrapie rules for some time. Montana credits its educational programs as the reason that state has gone several years without a reported outbreak. 
And the state of Washington measures the success of its programs by:

  • the reduction of telephone calls, emails and general questions about the disease;
  • increased compliance and decreased complaints about the identification requirements; and,
  • evidence of more flocks enrolled in the state program.

In closing, a fitting testimonial comes from a veterinary medical officer for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture – Livestock Division, Kim N. Kozuma, DVM, when she said, “I can state that since the Hawaii Sheep and Goat Association’s (HSGA) outreach programs and annual meetings have resumed, the state has never had to issue a scrapie violation to any of the HSGA members or producers who have attended one of the seminars. This is a direct result of the educational programs, HSGA’s informative website and the commitment of its members.”

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