February 10, 2006 | By: Aimee Nielson

The numbers of sheep and goats on Kentucky farms have been steadily increasing over the past few years. In 2005, the first estimate of Kentucky’s total goat population was recorded at 70,000 head. With the rise in these animal populations, identification is becoming more important, especially in light of diseases such as scrapie.

The Kentucky state veterinarian’s office recently released information regarding the requirement of scrapie tag identification for all classes of sheep and goats entering into public or private commerce.

“In other words, all sheep and goats of any classification need to be identified by a scrapie tag each and every time they change hands, regardless of the purpose of the transaction,” said Terry Hutchens, University of Kentucky Extension associate for goat management. 

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. It is among a number of diseases classified as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Infected flocks that contain a high percentage of susceptible animals can experience significant production losses. Over a period of several years the number of infected animals increases, and the age at onset of clinical signs decreases, making these flocks economically unviable. 

Animals sold from infected flocks spread scrapie to other flocks. The presence of scrapie in the United States also prevents the export of breeding stock, semen and embryos to many other countries.

Hutchens said goats have a low risk of contracting or carrying the scrapie
virus, but they would be considered at risk if they have direct contact with sheep or other animals known to be carrying the virus. He emphasized there is no evidence that scrapie of sheep and goats is transmitted to humans.

If producers want to avoid expensive complications associated with marketing goats and sheep in Kentucky, Hutchens recommends they sign up for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Scrapie Eradication Program. To do so, producers are required to obtain a Premise ID and then complete a scrapie tag order form. Each farm will receive up to 200 scrapie tags and a tagger free of charge. Both forms are available at county Extension offices. He said this program is a less costly alternative to electronic identification and still offers an excellent method of tracing animals.

“The requirement will go into effect on July 1,” Hutchens said. “If a producer enters a stockyard with untagged livestock, they will likely be charged $2 to $3 per head for tags.”



Terry Hutchens (859) 257-2465