The Canadian sheep and goat industries are stepping up efforts to deal with scrapie, a fatal brain wasting disease.
The federal government recently announced $345,720 for the Canadian Sheep Federation to implement its scrapie eradication strategic plan for sheep and goats.
The money, provided through Growing Forward 2, will be used to enhance national surveillance including more testing of animals in provincially inspected facilities, said Corlena Patterson of the Canadian Sheep Federation and Scrapie Canada.
There is a voluntary national surveillance strategy in place, but it needs more participation.
“It is not as comprehensive as it could be,” Patterson said
The federation wants to work with farmers and veterinarians to encourage more on-farm brain sample submissions when animals die. It applied for funds to provide producer compensation to en-courage more testing but the government did not include it in this round, she said.
There will also be enhanced risk mitigation efforts to encourage on-farm surveillance, using scrapie-resistant animals for breeding on farms, more education about different elements of the disease and measures to keep the disease off farms.
Scrapie Canada wants to create a databank of which farms have been sampled and what efforts are needed for sheep and goat testing.
A national prevalence study is also needed to update the last review in 2010.
It would measure trends and indicate whether various disease risk strategies helped.
“The idea is not that you can eradicate scrapie in the duration of this funded project. It is one of those diseases based on the epidemiology and it requires a long-term commitment to getting rid of it,” Patterson said.
An enhanced testing program and prevalence study could show the world animal health organization and trading partners that Canada is working toward negligible risk status.
The voluntary scrapie flock certification program is a collaboration between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and producers to control and eradicate the disease through surveillance of flocks.
Scrapie is related to BSE and chronic wasting disease. The disease causes an itching sensation in affected animals and they will rub off their fleece. It shows up when the animals are three- to-five-years of age and may be harboured in the soil. Evidence suggests prions, the infectious agents thought to cause the disease, can be shed through body fluids and excrement.
There were three cases of scrapie in 2015 and one case reported in an Ontario goat herd so far this year.
More information is available at Scrapie Canada or by calling 866-534-1302.