By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
Since Nov. 19, sheep or goats sold or leased to new owners are supposed to be tagged on their ear.
The federal regulation was implemented as a means to track the animals' histories in case they acquired scrapie, a fatal disease of the nervous system.
The tagging will hopefully be a means of controlling the spread of scrapie, experts say.
"With the tags, we will be able to easily trace a diseased animal back to its original flock and possibly farther to the source of the infection," said Ron Ackerman, a veternarian with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Enforcement of the rule will not actually begin for another six months because of a shortage of the tags, but it is important that producers abide by the new rule.
"Since the sheep industry requested the USDA to implement a scrapie-eradication program, it's important for every sheep and goat producer to meet their responsibility and identify their animals," Ackerman said.
Animals required to have tags include sheep that are sexually intact, intended for breeding purposes and are 18 months of age or older; sexually intact sheep and goats raised for exhibition; sexually intact sheep and goats older than 18 months that have been co-mingled with sheep.
Cull breeding sheep and goats that will be slaughtered will be tested for scrapie, and if it is discovered the animal has scrapie, its origins will be traced using the tag.
Ann Franklin, the agriculture and natural resources extension agent, said scrapie has been an ongoing disease.
It was first discovered in Colorado in the 1940s.
"More have been getting it and they want to put a stop to it," Franklin said.
The new regulation won't likely cause ranchers too many headaches.
"It's just extra paper work but an important step they'll have to take," she said. "It's not a huge deal, just a way of keeping good records and knowing where sheep are coming from."
To obtain tags, owners must contact the U.S.D.A.'s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Area Veterinary Services at (303) 231-5385 to obtain a premise identification number. APHIS will also help owners order the free tags.