On February 6, 2010, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada approved funding the National TSE Eradication Plan, a project to be administered by the Canadian Sheep Federation, the Canadian Sheep Breeders’ Association and the Canadian National Goat Federation. Shortly thereafter, Scrapie Canada officially began its latest project under this funding; the “Scrapie Eradication – A Small Ruminant Industry Plan”.
Funding was allocated for a three year study that will focus on determining scrapie prevalence in the Canadian sheep flock and goat herd and the continuation of the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program (VSFCP).
The objectives of the National TSE Eradication Plan are:
To determine scrapie prevalence in the Canadian sheep flock and goat herd.
The National TSE Eradication Plan will determine scrapie prevalence in the Canadian sheep flock and goat herd and use that information to help establish a clear time frame for eradicating scrapie from Canada. The long term goal of this project would then be to have Canada recognized internationally as scrapie free after the OIE-recommended seven-year monitoring period. Gaining a status of scrapie free is necessary for Canada to remain competitive in international markets. The project will also allow for the development of a business plan specifically focusing on TSE eradication, which will benefit Canadian sheep and goat producers, as well as the Canadian agriculture industry as a whole. The reduction and elimination of scrapie from Canada would reduce or prevent the destruction and disposal of scrapie infected flocks/herds, which are costly and present animal welfare concerns to both the Canadian livestock sector and consuming public.
Prevalence of scrapie in the Canadian sheep flock will be established through the random collection and testing of 15 000 brain and lymph node samples from mature sheep slaughtered in abattoirs across Canada. The collection of samples will be done by the CFIA and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD), with sample size based on 2008 statistics on the mature Canadian ewe flock. Compilation of data will be completed by the CFIA and the information analyzed by experts at the University of Guelph.
The study of scrapie prevalence in goats will take on a slightly different methodology under its own project and is currently underway. The methodology for determining scrapie prevalence in the national goat herd differs slightly from that of sheep as the goat industry faces some additional challenges.
A shortage of statistical information with respect to the mature goat population in Canada means insufficient sample reference base. Furthermore, random collection of goat samples from abattoirs across Canada is not possible without an industry wide mandatory national ID and traceability program in full effect, as the CFIA is unable to test any animal for scrapie that cannot be traced back to the farm of origin. As a result, project coordinators have designed a two stage plan for establishing scrapie prevalence in the goat herd. This plan will include the creation, distribution and statistical analysis of a goat industry survey, which will precede a call to industry for voluntary sample submissions, allowing a study of scrapie prevalence in goats.
The George Morris Centre in Guelph, Ontario was contracted to develop, distribute and interpret the findings of a goat industry survey. Industry response to the survey is paramount to the success of the goat scrapie prevalence study in that it establishes key statistical information on which to base the subsequent study. The goat industry survey was developed to establish a clear breakdown of industry statistics into populations of does, bucks and kids — information that is not segregated in Statistics Canada reporting on the national goat herd.
Distribution of the goat industry survey began early in July and has continued as additional producer groups are identified. To date, 282 producers have responded to the national survey, with provincial response rates as follows:
We ask any goat producer who has not received a copy of the survey to please contact Scrapie Canada, and we encourage every producer to take a moment to participate in the survey. All of the information collected as part of the survey will remain confidential, and the results are of great importance to both the scrapie prevalence study and the Canadian goat industry alike.
Experts at the George Morris Centre will begin analyzing the survey data by the middle of September. Once the statistics from the survey become available, the next step of the prevalence study will be to begin goat obex sample collection and analysis.
Project coordinators will need to ask Canadian goat producers to submit brain samples to the project. Since random testing at the abattoirs is not a possibility for the goat population, project coordinators have determined that a voluntary sample submission process is the best way to proceed with the study. These samples will be tested at a scrapie accredited laboratory and results will be used to determine scrapie prevalence in the Canadian goat herd. Further details around the sampling methodology have not yet been finalized but industry groups and producers will be made aware of any advances in the project as soon as they are confirmed. Industry participation in all aspects of this study is key to the project’s success and we encourage all goat producers to participate.
Part of our mandate here at Scrapie Canada is to coordinate and promote the Small Ruminant Industry Plan and the National Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program. As such we are available to participate in producer meetings and industry events, providing presentations, program materials and discussion spaces for producers and industry professionals. If you are interested in having Scrapie Canada participate in your event, please contact us at 866-534-1302 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Funding for this project is provided through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) AgriFlexibility program. Opinions expressed in this document are those of the CSF and not necessarily those of AAFC.