|Letter to the Editor, May 2005
Dear fellow sheep producers,
(November 1, 2005) I am writing to raise your awareness about the expected course of events regarding required scrapie ID, mostly in sheep, but possibly also in goats.
While at an auction market one week ago, I noticed a number of cull ewes that lacked the required tags. Of those, eight were our own.
Why were the animals missing the required ID? A number of possible explanations exist. First, as was the situation in our case, I drove off from our farm with the sheep untagged because we had forgotten to tag them for no real good reason except there was too much to do and not enough time. I realized that they were untagged several miles up the road and called the market.
Personnel at the market said, “Its ok, we’ll tag them when you arrive.”
So with help of my cell phone, I preceded to double check our scrapie flock/premises ID number to be ready to link it to the market’s serial tags.
We used to leave our scrapie tags and tagger in the pickup until we found out the hard way that winter-time temperatures in Minnesota were not conducive to application of scrapie tags or record keeping, i.e. who is going to keep their records in their pick-up cab for five years or design a tagger strong enough for freezer-temperature storage conditions?
Why else were animals untagged (cull ewes/rams)? Perhaps the producer just didn’t know about the requirements. While this is not likely, it’s still possible. Perhaps the producer ran out of tags. Perhaps the producer doesn’t want the government telling them what must be done, so they are evading the requirement. Why else?
Regardless of the reasons, I have become aware that enforcement regarding ID compliance is going to be tightened-up in the very near future. For example, I read that a market could be fined $1,000 per unidentified animal. Markets have been industry-friendly and many have been willing to serve as tagging sites. Apparently the rate of the fine is dependent on the person’s intent and position in the marketplace.
So, to all my fellow sheep producers and dealers, lets do our part and properly identify sheep that are being sold as 1) breeding stock at any age, 2) adult cull sheep or 3) are those sheep, regardless of their age, that are going to shows.
Let’s rally to the challenge that the scrapie program presents and comply with the ID requirements. We need to show the public at anytime that we are trying to control and work towards the eradication of scrapie. We know that ‘IDing,’ testing of potentially positive sheep and tracking test-positive sheep is a powerful tool in the control of this historically elusive disease. We are well-started on the path of control; let’s work together on its eradication.
Other steps/plans regarding enforcement of ID compliance are underway. Instead of industry reacting as “us against them,” meaning the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), lets be fair and frank and acknowledge that the National Scrapie Eradication Program has been underway long enough (since 2001) that for the majority of us who move sheep, our compliance with placing and recording the required ID should be in place at this point in time. USDA has given industry time to become accustomed to the adoption and routine application of the ID requirements.
Cindy Wolf, DVM
St. Paul, Minn.