Finish the Fight Against Scrapie: Brains Needed!

The United States is nearing the goal line after a 70 year battle against scrapie, a fatal disease that affects the brain of sheep and goats. Sheep and goat producers can help the USDA achieve this goal. The current program has been very successful to drastically reduce the amount of scrapie in the US. One of the most difficult aspects of an eradication program is making sure that the last few cases of the disease are found.

The most recent two cases of scrapie found in the US were sampled at slaughter but could not be traced back to a farm origin. One of these cases was a sheep in Wisconsin in 2021 and another was a goat tested in Indiana in 2019. Because these animals did not have adequate records and identification to find where they came from, it is likely there are still farms with cases of scrapie. For a country to be declared free of scrapie, international standards require a certain level of testing among all sheep and goat populations within a country. No samples can test positive for classical scrapie. The samples we need to test are brain and a lymph node.

Each year every state is given a minimum number of samples to be collected based on the breeding sheep and goat populations. This assures sampling represents the different populations. In fiscal year 2023 (October 1, 2022 – September 30, 2023), NJ needs to sample 31 mature (>18 months) sheep and 23 mature goats. As of the end of December we only collected 2 sheep samples and 1 goat sample. We continue to ask for help from our New Jersey small ruminant industry to obtain these samples.   If a producer has an adult sheep or goat that dies, that must be euthanized, or is being culled please contact USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services at 609-241-2236.  There is no charge for the collection or testing of the samples.  Producers may be eligible for official plastic tags as long as our supplies last.

Submitted by:
Linda A. Detwiler, DVM
Veterinary Medical Officer
Sheep And Goat Health Team
Ruminant Health Center