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  • Writer's pictureShooting Star Sheep

Scrapie USDA/APHIS Ear Tags

The USDA has a voluntary scrapie eradication program that every breeder/producer of sheep in the US should be enrolled in.


Every produce of goats or sheep, that are not going directly to slaughter, who are enrolled in USDA's Scrapie Eradication Program is assigned a five digit flock ID number with their state. When you enroll in their program you are offered 100 free plastic ear tags (which is what we use) that have a visual component – which has the state, flock ID, and individual animal ID # – as well as a RFID microchip in them the back.


As you can see in the picture below, Filbert has his official USDA Scrapie ear tag in his right ear.


The USDA's National Scrapie Eradication program helps identify the source of scrapie if there ever is an outbreak. This is my understanding being a participant in this program and receiving information.


If you are looking for more information on this topic it is bet to go directly to the USDA. Here is some information on Scrapie the disease from the USDA here is some information on sheep and goat identification for scrapie from the USDA. Please also note that official USDA tags are unlawful to remove.

We are still learning more about the USDA's program and this is our first year tagging. He is my reflection on it:


Ideally I would have gotten our flock ID and the tags and applicator (which you have to purchase) before lambing began, however this year was our first year lambing and so it was a very steep learning curve, but ideally we would have tagged the lambs when they were only a few days old.


Once we had filled out the all of the paperwork required by the USDA the tags arrived in the mail within a few business days and we had to order the applicator.


Once we had all of the supplies, we tagged the lambs and the individual ID numbers started at 001 with our flock. We assigned the numbers in order the lambs were born and they all now have their tags in.


The actually process of tagging when very smoothly. Ear tagging lambs is basically like giving them and ear piercing with a plastic earning. We made sure to put the tag in disinfectant and position the tag in the right spot, about 1/3 of the way from the base of the ear. The tag should be punched in from the top of the ear and not pierce the cartilage 'ribs' of the ear while leaving room for the ear to grow if a lamb is being tagged.


It took two people to catch and hold the lamb and punch the tag, but the lambs were surprisingly cooperative and there were no disasters.


Over all we know we will be better prepared for next year, because we have all of the supplies and now we have the experience of tagging three lambs from this year that should help us next year.





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