As many producers already know, due to the 2003 BSE crisis, trade access to the U.S. for all Canadian sheep and goats was stopped. After a long awaited period of time- and a lot of hard work on behalf of the industries- the Canadian border was opened for the importation of sheep and goats from the U.S. in April 2007, but with this came a restriction. Any Canadian producer wanting to import female sheep or goats (including embryos) from the U.S. must be a participant on the Scrapie Flock Certification Program (SFCP). The same restriction was applied to exporting American producers- they too had to be on the U.S. Scrapie Flock Certification Program. To date, the export of Canadian sheep and goats into the U.S. for the purposes of breeding stock is still not permitted. The current position of the U.S. is that in order for full trade to resume, Canada needs to develop and implement a National Scrapie Eradication Program similar to the U.S. model.
So what is the U.S. doing in terms of scrapie eradication and how does it compare to Canada’s model?
The U.S. has been working for many years on scrapie eradication, developing a well rounded package that is made up of numerous components. These components include a flock certification program; an eradication and compensation program for flocks/ herds that are tested positive for scrapie; a regulated inter-state sheep and goat ID program; and a national surveillance program;
Canada also has been focusing on scrapie eradication and has been doing so since the 1950s. Canadian programs include a flock certification program; an eradication and compensation program for flocks/ herds that are tested positive for scrapie; a national genotyping program for purebred sheep; an identification and traceability program for sheep; as well as national and provincial surveillance in sheep and goats.
When it comes to the flock certification, Canada and the U.S. have comparable programs. Both programs require producers to work with a veterinarian completing annual inventories of all sheep and goats on the property. Producers on both programs must also track any incoming and outgoing animals and must complete brain testing on an annual basis.
Differences between the U.S. and Canadian program do exist. For example, it takes American producers seven years to reach the certified level on their program, whereas Canadian producers can be certified in five years. For all pathways in Canada’s program, producers are required to complete a brain test on any animal over the age of one year that dies naturally on the farm. The U.S. only has one pathway that requires producers to brain test all mature deads and this is the export certified pathway.
Currently in Canada there are about 55 enrolled producers on the SFCP and in the U.S. there are 1,971. However, it should be noted that only 30 of these participants are on the export certified pathway, meaning only 30 U.S. producers are following the same regulations laid out in the Canadian program. The other 1,941 producers are enrolled on the U.S. Scrapie Flock Certification Program but they are following more lenient regulations.
Canada and the U.S. are quite similar in terms of their scrapie eradication and compensation program. Both countries’ infected flock clean up programs are risk based using genetics (genotyping) and compensation is offered for all animals ordered destroyed.
The two major areas where Canada and the U.S. differ in their scrapie initiatives are identification and surveillance- and it is here where Canada lags behind. In 2000, the U.S. developed and implemented an inter-state identification program for all sheep and goats in the country. To date, Canada only has a national ID system in place for sheep. Our country’s lack of a national ID system for goats is seen as a major hold back.
Canada is not up to par with surveillance numbers either. Not only has the U.S. been completing scrapie surveillance for a longer period of time than us, they complete more of it; therefore their numbers are a lot higher than ours. As part of the National Scrapie Eradication Plan, the U.S. has three national surveillance components, which completes surveillance on-farm and at slaughter facilities. Surveillance was also made a priority in the U.S. with the 2002 Scrapie Ovine Slaughter Surveillance study where scrapie prevalence in the U.S. was determined.
Canada does complete surveillance on a national level but the numbers are not comparable to the U.S. In Canada, sheep and goats are tested for scrapie on-farm through the Scrapie Flock Certification Program and at slaughter facilities by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; however, due to low producer uptake and lack of resources, Canada has just not been able to meet the U.S. surveillance numbers. And unlike the U.S; Canada has not completed a scrapie prevalence study, which is vital step in eradicating the disease.
In order to be on equal playing ground with the U.S; a national identification system needs to be established for goats in our country. Canada also needs to dedicate more time and resources to scrapie surveillance on a national level and more producers need to submit heads for scrapie testing.
Information on scrapie programs in the U.S. can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/scrapie/