Goats file photo

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is updating specific identification requirements for goats and certain record-keeping requirements for sheep and goats, which will provide increased animal-disease traceability.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is updating its scrapie regulations and program standards. The updates include several major changes which are needed to continue the fight to eradicate scrapie from American sheep flocks and goat herds, according to an agency news release.

Scrapie is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy disease that affects the central nervous system in sheep and goats and is eventually fatal.

Scientific studies show sheep with certain genotypes are resistant to or less susceptible to classical scrapie and are unlikely to catch the disease. Because of that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is changing the definition of a scrapie high-risk animal so that it no longer includes most genetically resistant and genetically less-susceptible sheep.

Those animals pose a minimal risk of developing or transmitting scrapie. By no longer considering them high-risk they will no longer need to be depopulated or permanently restricted to their home farms.

The updated regulations and program standards will give the agency’s epidemiologists and leadership more flexibility to determine flock designations and deal with scrapie types that pose a minimal risk of spreading, including Nor-98-like scrapie. It also allows APHIS to determine — based on science — that additional genotypes are resistant without going through rule-making.

APHIS is also updating specific identification requirements for goats and certain record-keeping requirements for sheep and goats, which will provide increased animal-disease traceability.

Traceability is provided for certain classes of sheep and goats by a federal register program, but strengthening traceability — particularly for goats — is important. That rule will bring goat identification and record-keeping requirements to the level of the sheep industry, improving slaughter surveillance, the agency said.

Official identification will now be required for goats 18 months of age or older, and for all sexually intact goats younger than 18 months of age moving for purposes other than slaughter, or feeding for slaughter, with some exceptions.

Both industries will see record- keeping changes. Sheep and goats moving in slaughter channels will now be required to have an owner and shipper statement. That statement must include group and lot identification, unless the animals are individually identified with official tags.

Visit federalregister.gov and search for “scrapie” for more information.