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Scrapie Eradication Program

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the brain, muscles, and central nervous system of sheep and goats. The disease is believed to be caused by an abnormal protein, known as a prion, which acts as the infectious and contagious agent. Scrapie is likely spread from mother to offspring and/or other herd/flock members through contact with afterbirth. Sheep or goats infected with the disease may exhibit behavioral changes due to damaged nerve cells. These signs progress until the animal dies. There is currently no cure or treatment for scrapie.

Minnesota is part of a nationwide program to eliminate scrapie across the United States. As part of the Scrapie Eradication Program, anyone who buys or sells sheep or goats in Minnesota is required to register with the Board. In addition, all sheep and goats must be officially identified when they leave the farm and before they are commingled with sheep or goats from other flocks or herds. Official identification is important because it makes it possible to trace a diseased or exposed animal to its flock of origin where disease control strategies can be implemented.

The Scrapie Eradication Program consists of the following components:

  • Identification of infected sheep or goats through nationwide slaughter surveillance.
  • Tracing of infected animals to their flock or herd of origin.
  • Quarantine and testing of exposed animals sold from an infected or source flock or herd.
  • Voluntary genetic testing of sheep to determine susceptibility to scrapie.

Producers may register their herd/flock by contacting the Board at (651) 201-6809 or by submitting the online form available by clicking on this link.

General Requirements for Owning Sheep and Goats

Official Identification

All sheep and goats, including wethers, must be officially identified upon movement from one flock/herd to another and before they are commingled with sheep and goats from other flocks and herds. Minnesota producers can obtain free official scrapie metal serial ear tags by filling out the online order form or calling the USDA at 1-866-USDA-TAG.

Please be aware, the USDA has discontinued distribution of all plastic ear tags, flock/herd ID tags, plastic and metal ear tag applicators, until further notice.

Plastic ear tags, Flock/Herd ID ear tags, and plastic ear tag applicators can be purchased by clicking on this link. Metal ear tag applicators can be purchased from National Band and Tag:

National Band & Tag Company
721 York St., P.O. Box 72430
Newport, KY 41072-0430, USA
Phone: (859) 261-2035
Fax:  (859) 261-8247

Producers should never allow other producers to use their official scrapie ID tags. If an animal loses an ear tag, it can be replaced with an official scrapie tag assigned to the producer as long as records indicate the animal’s origin. When the animal’s origin is unknown, producers should not use their assigned scrapie tags to replace the lost ID. For more information regarding lost ear tags, contact the Board at 651-201-6809.

Sheep or goat producers who fit all of the criteria below are eligible for up to 80 plastic flock/herd ID ear tags at no cost to them.

  1. Have not previously registered with the National Scrapie Eradication program through the Board office.
  2. Have never ordered official ear tags through USDA or the Board office.
  3. Breed sheep or goats.

Record Requirements

Anyone who applies official identification that has been assigned to a producer must maintain the following records:

  • date the identification was applied;
  • number of sheep and goats identified;
  • identification numbers applied; and
  • name and address of the flock of birth, if different from the current flock.

Anyone who applies official identification that is not assigned directly to the producer must maintain the following records:

  • date the identification was applied;
  • number of sheep and goats identified;
  • serial tag numbers applied; and
  • name and address of the flock where the animal currently or most recently resided.

All records pertaining to the movement of sheep and goats must be maintained for at least five years after the sale or disposition of the animal. Records must be available for inspection and copying at any reasonable time by an authorized agent of the Board.

Scrapie Susceptibility and Genetics

Genetic testing also referred to as DNA testing or genotyping can determine a sheep’s susceptibility to scrapie. Scrapie resistance is determined by gene factors called codons. The most important codons relating to scrapie resistance are the codons numbered 171 and 136.

A blood sample is all that is required to test for scrapie susceptibility. It should be noted that genotyping only indicates an animal’s susceptibility to the disease and not the presence or absence of the actual scrapie disease agent.

In general, codon 171 yields “Q” or “R” factors and codon 136 yields “A” or “V” factors. It is desired to breed with rams that have at least one “R” factor. Selecting and retaining rams with “RR” in their genetic code will have the most impact on developing a scrapie-resistant flock.


Genotypes related to scrapie susceptibility
QQAA – highly susceptible QRAA – rarely susceptible
QQAV – highly susceptible QRAV – susceptible to some strains
QQVV – highly susceptible QRVV – susceptible to some strains
RRAA – Scrapie resistant genotype


At this time, there are no approved official genetic tests for goats. The United States Department of Agriculture is currently conducting research in order to determine which codons affect scrapie susceptibility in goats.

Genotype testing is available through private veterinarians, or the test may be conducted by producers for management purposes. For further information regarding genotype testing, and for a list of approved laboratories, contact the Board at 651-201-6809.


Scrapie Flock Certification Program

The Scrapie Flock Certification Program (SFCP) is a voluntary program for sheep and goat producers to enhance the marketability of their animals by certifying their flock as scrapie-free. The SFCP monitors flocks by through annual inspections and/or testing of animals depending on which enrollment option is chosen.

The longer a flock is enrolled and in compliance with program requirements, the greater the likelihood that the flock is scrapie-free. The United States Department of Agriculture registers flocks and maintains records.

For more information, including a list of enrolled flocks, approved ear tags, and program requirements and standards, visit the USDA Scrapie-Free Flock Certification Program web page.

To apply for the SFCP, contact Kelly Neisen at (651) 260-4570 or by email at

Ovine Progressive Pneumonia

Ovine progressive pneumonia (OPP) is a slowly progressive viral disease that affects nearly half of Minnesota sheep flocks and results in reduced profits. Caprine arthritis-encephalitis (CAE) is a similar disease of goats. Common early signs are a general loss of body condition and labored breathing or coughing while at rest. The virus can also cause “hard bag,” an enlarged, firm udder with little or no milk flow, as well as swollen joints and lameness. Once infected, animals remain so for life though many will never exhibit clinical signs of disease.

There is no vaccine or cure, and standard eradication methods involve costly rigid culling of test-positive animals and/or orphan rearing of young stock. Minnesota is currently trialing a less expensive eradication method. For more information, see the OPP information below.

OPP Pilot Program

In 2006 the Board of Animal Health introduced a voluntary OPP/CAE test and control program. Originally offered as an optional add-on component of USDA’s voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program, the pilot is now a stand-alone program and any flock/herd in Minnesota is eligible to apply.

For more information, read the OPP/CAE Pilot Program.  To apply to the program complete the application for OPP/CAE Pilot Program and follow the instructions for submitting the form to the Board.


OPP Pilot Program Flocks – Updated January 2017
Flock Owner Farm Location Enrollment Date Flock Status Breed/Species
Diane Ayers Flat Rock Farm
Eagle Bend, MN 56446
08/08/2014 Test-Negative,
meeting standards
BL: Border Leicester Sheep
JA: Jacob Sheep
Michael Curley Curley Family Suffolks
Windom, MN 56101
07/11/2006 Test-Negative,
meeting standards
SU: Suffolk Sheep
Phillip Gill Gill Farms
Springfield, MN 56087
09/12/2016 Enrolled,
meeting standards
HAxSU: Hampshire x Suffolk Sheep
Dan Hammond Fish Creek Farm
Grey Eagle, MN 56336
06/24/2016 Test-Negative,
meeting standards
COxDO: Columbia x Dorset Sheep
Margo/Ray Hanson Marsh Creek Crossing
Twin Valley, MN 56584
03/02/2009 Test-Negative,
meeting standards
BL: Border Leicester Sheep
BLxSM: BL x Siremax Sheep
Judy Lewman Spring Creek Farm
Minnetrista, MN 55364
03/24/2006 Test-Negative,
meeting standards
BL: Border Leicester Sheep
Thomas McDowell Misty Meadow Icelandics Minnetrista, MN 55364 04/06/2006 Test-Negative,
meeting standards
IC: Icelandic Sheep
Bets Reedy Bramble Hill
Houston, MN 55943
08/02/2006 Enrolled,
meeting standards
CF: Clun Forest Sheep
Tim Reese Gale Woods Farm
Minnetrista, MN 55364
03/03/2006 Test-Negative,
meeting standards
BL: Border Leicester Sheep
FN: Finnsheep
BLxFNxCR: Border Leicester x Finnsheep x Corriedale Sheep
Lila Schmidt Grandview Polypay
Marshall, MN 56258
12/15/2015 Enrolled,
meeting standards
PO: Polypay Sheep
Karen Stormo Avalon Farm
Clearbrook, MN 56644
08/20/2016 Enrolled,
meeting standards
BL: Border Leicester Sheep
CO: Columbia Sheep
IL: Icelandic Sheep


OPP Eradication Trial

In 2013, an OPP Eradication Trial was initiated as part of the OPP Program, with the selected producers testing an alternative eradication strategy based on recent research findings. This was a collaborative effort of the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Association, the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and College of Veterinary Medicine, USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, the Board of Animal Health and volunteers from the OPP Society.  This trial is almost completed.  View the January 2016 update and January 2017 report for more information on the outcome of this trial.

The methods used in this trial have successfully reduced and in some cases eliminated OPP infection in sheep flocks in the trial.  These methods can be applied in any flock. View the OPP Eradication Trial outline for more information.