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Scrapie is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. It is spread during lambing season when lambs come into contact with infected placentas. While the occurrence of scrapie in the U.S. sheep flock is low, it is a disease of regulatory concern. This is because scrapie is a member of a family of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE's), which also includes chronic wasting disease (in mule deer and elk), mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), and classic and new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob's Disease (in humans).

Producers of breeding stock are encouraged to enroll in the voluntary scrapie flock certification program which, after five years of scrapie-free monitoring, enables a flock to be certified scrapie-free. While scrapie is not a genetic disease, a sheep's genetic make-up influences its susceptibility to scrapie if exposed to the infective agent. Therefore, sheep can be tested for scrapie resistance.

In the United States, scrapie has been primarily reported in the Suffolk breed but has been detected in numerous other breeds as well. Only two countries are recognized by the U.S. as being free of scrapie: Australia and New Zealand.

Signs and Symptoms

  • behavioral changes
  • tremor of head and neck
  • scratching and rubbing against fixed objects
  • lack of coordination
  • weight loss despite retention of appetite
  • biting of feet and limbs and lip smacking
  • gait abnormalities, including high–stepping of the forelegs, hopping like a rabbit, and swaying of the back end
  • death

Minnesota Scrapie Eradication Program

The Minnesota Scrapie Eradication Program assists sheep and goat producers in identification, control, and eradication of scrapie from their flock or herd. Nationally recognized as a leader in scrapie eradication, this program is one of the nation’s largest and most successful and has served as a model for other states and countries.

The program consists of the following components:

  • Flock genotyping (or genetic testing) to determine a sheep or goat's susceptibility to scrapie
  • Identification of pre-clinical infected sheep through live-animal testing and slaughter surveillance
  • Tracing of infected animals to their flock of origin
  • Providing effective cleanup strategies that allow producers to stay in business, preserve breeding stock, and remain economically viable

When exposed or infected flocks are found, USDA provides indemnity, scrapie testing, genotyping, and tracing of exposed animals sold from infected and source flocks.

Register today and receive free ear tags for your flock: MN Board of Animal Health 651-201-6809.

Link to Minnesota Board of Animal Health sheep scrapie website: http://www.bah.state.mn.us/diseases/scrapie/

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