Yesterday we took 4 animals (2 sheep and 2 goats) to the stockyard to be sold. While the story of getting them on the trailer has nothing to do with the purpose of this post, it is too funny not share, so I’m going to to go off track a bit.
Funny, irrelevant tangent:Our old large buck can be hard to handle. Not in the fact that he is aggressive, but in that he isn’t the friendliest fellow. He likes to be left alone, and is therefore, hard to catch. Well, it just so happened that he was snoozing in one of the shelters, so I rushed to block the entryway to trap him inside. Alec brought me a fence panel to lock him in. The shelter he was in is a grain bin cut in half, and we humans have to do a duck walk to get in there. So here we are– Alec, a 200 pound buck, and me blocking them both inside to duke it out. Alec grabbed the buck’s horns, and when he did, the buck bolted. He began to run in circles with Alec spinning on his butt like a spinning top, holding onto the buck’s horns. It was a funny sight to be sure. I tried videoing it, but was not nearly as coordinated as I needed to be (sorry, no video). The next step was to let the two wrestlers out of the shelter. The buck was pushing with all his might, and Alec still did not have his footing. I grabbed one horn and the buck’s beard, but at this point the buck and Alec were all sorts of tangled, Alec had to let go, and the buck and I went running. Alec yelled for me to let go; however, I’m a bit stubborn, so I held on until Alec got there. We both escorted him to the trailer. Phew!
OK, back on track… before leaving for the stockyard, we had to make sure that all the animals we were selling had scrapie tags. It is required that goats and sheep have scrapie tags so that if they were to come down with scrapie disease, they could be tracked down to their place of origin. The tag not only has a number that represents that individual animal, but it also has a longer number that represents the farm from which they came. Ours looks something like this:
Not all tags are scrapie tags and an animal can have more than one tag, but a scrapie tag is a must have. Why is this scrapie tag system so important? Well, scrapie disease is a very serious matter. It is the goat/sheep version of mad cow disease. It is degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system that is fatal. There are only two countries that do not have scrapie–Australia and New Zealand. In 1947, scrapie entered the United States through a Michigan flock of sheep. In 2001, the USDA started an aggressive program to help eradicate scrapie. Since that time, scrapie has been reduced by 85% in the US! This has been accomplished through the identification program as well as other measures. According to the National Scrapie Education Initiative, the program includes:
- Identification of pre-clinical infected sheep through live-animal testing and active slaughter surveillance.
- Effective tracing of infected animals to their flock/herd of origin made possible as a result of the new identification requirements.
- Providing effective cleanup strategies that will allow producers to stay in business, preserve breeding stock, and remain economically viable. USDA/APHIS will do this by providing the following to exposed and infected flocks/herds that participate in cleanup plans:
- Indemnity for high risk, suspect, and scrapie positive sheep and goats, which owners agree to destroy,
- Scrapie live-animal testing,
- Genetic testing, and
- Testing of exposed animals that have been sold out of infected and source flocks/herds.
As you can see, this is serious business. At the stockyard that we brought the animals to, there is a sign that says all sheep and goats unloaded must have a scrapie tag by USDA regulations.
As a farm, we tag anything that goes off of our property. Interestingly, not all states have the same regulations. North Carolina does not require tags for animals that are wethers (castrated male) and animals less than 12 months of age going directly to slaughter; however, other states make no exceptions to tags. Regardless, it is important to not only be aware of your state regulations, but to follow them. In this way, we can help eradicate scrapie in the United States. There have been huge strides made in the last 14 years, and it is up to us farmers to continue those strides.
And that is your fact for this Friday.