HOUSTON, Mo. — Small ruminant production (sheep and goats) is growing in importance in southern Missouri. Market demand is high, prices have been strong, and several livestock auctions are offering sheep and goat sales regularly.
“This demand is driven by various ethnic groups who have traditionally consumed more sheep and goat meat, but also by Americans that are looking for more diverse meat options,” said Eric Meusch, agriculture educator with University of Missouri Extension.
Anyone that has raised sheep or goats to show, or has sold them through a livestock sale barn knows about scrapie tags.
If an animal arrives at the sale barn without a scrapie tag, it is given one (for a small charge). According to Meusch, these tags provide a way to trace the animal back to a specific flock or market in case it is diagnosed with scrapie in the future.
These tags are available through the Missouri Department of Agriculture for producers who register their flock and receive a flock ID number. Many new producers wonder, “What is scrapie anyway?”
More importantly, some farmers are asking, “What will happen if my flock if found to have scrapie?”
WHAT IS SCRAPIE
Scrapie is a transmittable spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) disease that effects the central nervous system of the infected sheep and goats.
“It is the same type of disease that causes mad cow disease in cattle,” said Meusch.
Scrapie costs the US sheep industry 20 million dollars a year. Symptoms include rubbing as if itchy, staggering or hopping gate, lip-smacking, flightiness, loss of coordination, emaciation and eventual death.
“Although transmission is not completely understood, it is presumed to be passed from infected females though contact with amniotic fluid and afterbirth,” said Meusch.
Scrapie has been a known disease in Europe since the early 1800th century but was not discovered in the United States until 1947. The first scrapie eradication program in the US was started in 1952, and Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Eradication Program was started and it has been successful in reducing the prevalence of the disease by over 85 percent.
SCAPIE ERADICATION PROGRAM
Producers are asked to cooperate with the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Eradication Program to help wipe out the disease by:
- Reporting all sheep and goats over 18 months or age that show symptoms of scrapie;
- Submitting heads of sheep and goats over 18 months that die from scrapie-like symptoms for testing; and
- Obtaining a flock ID number and properly identifying animals that are sold or transported.
If scrapie is found in a flock or a herd, all the animals will be genetically tested to identify animals that are most susceptible to the disease. Susceptible or infected animals may have to be destroyed. In many cases individuals that are genetically resistant can be introduced to a flock to increase overall resistance.
To get more information about scrapie, report suspected cases, or get information about flock ID and tagging contact your local veterinarian, the Missouri State Veterinarian, or USDA Veterinary Services. Any laboratory testing done by the state required for the diagnosis of scrapie disease is done free-of-charge.
— Eric Meusch, University of Missouri Extension
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