COLUMBUS, Ohio - Producers who have questions or concerns regarding the United States Department of Agriculture's new regulations for sheep and goat identification will have the opportunity to attend one of seven Ohio State University Extension/USDA-sponsored programs in January and February.
Bill Shulaw, an Ohio State University Extension veterinarian, said the purpose of the programs is to help clarify the USDA's requirements for establishing a sheep and goat identification system as part of a federal effort to track and eradicate scrapie, a deadly neurological illness that affects sheep and goats. One of the new rules, which went into effect on Nov. 19, requires that all sheep and goat producers provide ear-tag identification for livestock moving interstate for such purposes as marketing and exhibition.
"The programs will have a three-phase agenda: an explanation of the new program rules and some of the regulatory issues associated with that, what happens to a flock when it's been diagnosed with scrapie, and a question and answer session," said Shulaw. "The programs are designed in a way to make it easier for producers to understand and comply with the new rules." Shulaw said it's important for sheep and goat producers to abide by the new regulations to help eradicate scrapie, just as they have complied with other federal identification programs that have been in place to rid livestock of other diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis.
"I think it's fair to say that there may be some confusion of what is being asked of sheep and goat producers," said Shulaw, emphasizing that many producers are confusing the new regulations with the voluntary scrapie flock certification program that enables producers to certify their flocks are scrapie-free. "What is really happening is that producers are being asked to come up to similar identification standards that are required of other livestock, such as cattle." Closely tracking the movement of animals to help identify TB and brucellosis has helped rid herds of the illnesses, and officials hope the same will happen with the new identification program for scrapie. "We're not aware of any herds infected with brucellosis and we are pretty close to achieving eradication with TB," said Shulaw. "An identification program for scrapie is a necessary tool to dealing with the disease effectively and part of the USDA's overall goal of ridding the disease entirely." The USDA has reported that as of August 2001, approximately 1,600 confirmed scrapie cases in sheep and seven cases in goats have been identified since the first diagnosis was made in 1947. In Ohio, one of the states with the highest number of scrapie cases, 14 infected sheep or source flocks of scrapie have been identified between October 2000 and September of this year. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio boasts 142,000 head of sheep with a value of $19.8 million. For more information on scrapie, log on to http://www.animalagriculture.org/scrapie/Scrapie.htm or http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/scrapie.htm.
A list of the Ohio State Extension/USDA-sponsored programs with contact information is below: * Jan. 8: Mt. Victory Plaza Inn, Mt. Victory, OH; contact Tammy Dobbels, Extension agent at (937) 599-4227 * Jan. 14: Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, Ohio; contact Terry Beck, Extension agent at (330) 264-8722. * Jan. 17: Tri-Valley High School, Dresden, Ohio; contact Jeff McCutcheon, Extension agent at (740) 397-0401. * Jan. 23: Hancock County Agricultural Services Center, Findlay, Ohio; contact Gary Wilson, Extension agent at (419) 422-3851. * Jan. 31: Ross County Extension office, Chillicothe, Ohio; contact John Yost, Extension agent at (740) 335-1150. * Feb. 5: Guernsey County Extension office, Cambridge Ohio; contact Clif Little, Extension agent at (740) 432-9300. * Feb. 11: Upper Valley Joint Vocational School, Piqua, Ohio; contact Woody Joslin, program assistant at (937) 498-7239.