Scrapie Canada Review

Sep 26

September 2008 Scrapie Canada Update

Scrapie Canada is continuing to work with government and industry, taking action towards eradicating scrapie nationwide. In the past year, Scrapie Canada has focused on a number initiatives working hard to make eradication a reality.

The Scrapie Flock Certification Program (SFCP) is ongoing. This program was developed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in collaboration with industry, as the basis for Canada’s on-farm, voluntary scrapie control program. Commencing in 2005, the SFCP is a pilot project funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and is intended to be a long-term, internationally recognized program. In the first two years, uptake on the program was slow. However, since the border opened for the importation of US sheep and goats in April 2007, interest in the program has increased. This is mainly due to the fact that if a producer wishes to import a female sheep or goat from the US, he/she must be a participant on the program. At the onset of the program Scrapie Canada was sending out about one application package per week, but since April 2007, on average, three application packages are going out weekly. The number of phone calls and e-mails received by Scrapie Canada has increased significantly as well, especially coming from the goat industry. The majority of these calls are from producers wanting to import animals from the US. To date, Scrapie Canada has received 75 program applications from sheep and goat producers across the country. At the end of March 2009, the current funding for the SFCP will be finished. This does not mean the program will be ending; however, there may be some changes in regards to administration and enrollment.

The National Survey of Scrapie Genetics in Canadian Purebred Sheep received an extension in 2008, allowing the program to continue until December 16, 2008. Since the announcement of the extension producer interest in this program has increased as well. To date, about 8,500 purebred sheep across Canada have been genotype tested through the program. As the survey winds down, producers should take advantage of the funding while it is still available. Any producer of purebred sheep registered with the Canadian Sheep Breeders Association, the Canadian Katahdin Sheep Association, and the Canadian Finnsheep Breeders’ Association is eligible to participate. For any producer who is interested in genotype testing his/ her purebred sheep, the National Genotyping Survey offers a reasonable reimbursement. Outside of the program, testing is approximately $30 per head, plus the cost of the vet visit to draw blood and shipping fees. Through the program, testing is $10 per head and another $6 per head is compensated for the vet call. Half of shipping fees is also covered by the program. Samples must be drawn no later than December 16, 2008 for producers to receive a reimbursement.

The CFIA continues to initiate and implement scrapie programs as well. The National Scrapie Surveillance Program was developed and launched by the CFIA and several provincial agricultural ministries. The goal of this program is to identify every animal infected with scrapie so that proper steps can be taken to completely eradicate the disease from Canada. In 2007, there were two cases of scrapie reported in Canada- one classical and the other non-classical. Since January 2008, five cases of scrapie have been reported. Producers are encouraged to report all sheep and goats aged 12 months and older that die on their farm or exhibit unexplained weight loss with no loss of appetite, problems standing or walking, or other changes in behaviour.

When cases of scrapie are confirmed, the CFIA will quarantine the affected flock or herd. The process hereafter is different depending on if you are a sheep producer or a goat producer. If you are a sheep producer, all sheep over 12 months of age on the property will be genotype tested to determine the animal’s relative susceptibility to scrapie. Sheep of the most susceptible genotype will be ordered destroyed and brain tested. If additional positive cases are detected, sheep with the next most susceptible genotype will be ordered destroyed and brain tested and this process continues. All sheep under 12 months of age are to be sent for slaughter. The flock is required to submit all mature on farm mortalities for a period of 5 years after the quarantine is lifted.

When scrapie is confirmed on a goat farm, genotype testing is not an option. Scientific data on genotype testing goats has not provided any repeatable studies that document any codon variations in goats that are associated with a high risk of scrapie. In light of this, genotyping cannot be used as a risk management tool in goats. All goats less than 12 months of age are sent for slaughter and all goats over 12 months of age are ordered destroyed and brain tested for scrapie. Compensation is available for all animals ordered destroyed by the CFIA.

Areas of the premises where the infected flock or herd resides that are thought to be at high risk of being contaminated with the scrapie agent (eg. Lambing and kidding areas) are required to be cleaned and disinfected. Once the CFIA has released a flock from quarantine (when it is declared no longer to be an infected place), the producer must submit all on farm mature deads for scrapie surveillance for a period of five years (testing and sampling, if necessary, are provided by the CFIA). Although it is not mandatory, if the producer wishes to use this as an opportunity to enroll in the SFCP, he/she can do so.

The CFIA also locates, destroys and tests potentially exposed sheep and goats that have moved off of the infected farm in the 5 years previous to the diagnosis. Flocks or herds from which breeding females have been bought over 5 or more years prior to the diagnosis are investigated by the CFIA as potential sources of the infection.

In September 2008, the CFIA is launching a new scrapie promotional program, aiming at increasing awareness of the National Scrapie Surveillance Program and encouraging producers to submit samples from all sheep and goats that die on farm. More information on this program will be available in an upcoming issue of From the Flock.

Moving forward, Scrapie Canada is currently seeking long term funding from the CFIA to go towards continuing Canada’s scrapie programs. Since September 2007, Scrapie Canada has been working closely with the CFIA, AAFC and researchers at the University of Guelph on the development of a National Scrapie Program. Scrapie Canada is asking the CFIA for approximately $2.7 million per year to fund research that will determine scrapie prevalence in Canada. Results of this research would enable the establishment of a clear time frame in which scrapie can be eradicated from Canada and after the OIE-recommended seven-year monitoring period, have Canada internationally recognized as scrapie-free.

For more information on any of the scrapie programs mentioned above, please call Scrapie Canada at 1-866-534-1302 or e-mail

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Scrapie Canada's Project Partners

Canadian Sheep Federation

Canadian Sheep Breeder’s Association

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Canadian National Goat Federation

Canadian Food Inspection Agency