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Goat, sheep importers get new scrapie rules

New import regulations for sheep and goats entering Canada from the United States will take effect Feb. 1.

The changes reflect ongoing efforts to prevent the import of breeding animals infected with scrapie while also allowing Canadian sheep and goat producers to obtain new stock.

“There always is a desire to get some new seed stock in here,” said Canadian Sheep Federation executive director Corlena Patterson.

“We see 200 or 300 (sheep) per year, breeding stock imported into Canada from the U.S.”

Scrapie exists in Canada and the U.S., but the latter country has had an eradication plan since 2003 that has markedly reduced incidence of the disease in sheep and goats.

The new policy implemented by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires that any imported female sheep and goats come from a U.S. farm that is considered a negligible risk premises.

Males must meet one of three criteria outlined by the CFIA:

  • Must come from a negligible risk premises.
  • Have a genotype that is resistant or moderately resistant to scrapie.
  • Come from an American farm enrolled in that country’s voluntary scrapie flock certification program for at least one year.

The third option includes additional post-import restrictions on where the animals can move.

The policy is more restrictive for goats because there is no genotype information on them about resistance to the disease.

In sheep, genetic testing has identified genotypes that are susceptible, moderately susceptible and resistant to scrapie. Sheep with the latter two ratings will be eligible for import from the U.S.

“Two-thirds of the world’s countries at this point have some scrapie-related import restrictions, so the desire to eliminate scrapie from Canada is two-fold,” said Patterson.

“One, it has to do with the impact that it has on the national flock and the number of animals that we’ve lost because of it and the number of farms, products that have been affected by scrapie, by the disease and the disease control actions. Of course the other longer-term goal is the market access issue.”

Patterson said the CFIA policy is the product of three drafts and was developed with input from small ruminant producers.

She said members of the national scrapie working group met with the CFIA Nov. 13 to review the final version of the new import policy. Producers had the chance to provide comment earlier this year.

“There’s an understanding of the impact the disease has on the sector,” Patterson said.

“There’s an understanding that the policy is put in place to protect bringing animals in that have scrapie and increasing their risk of … spreading the disease in the country.”

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