Do Dairy Goats Need Scrapie Tags?

By Dairy Farming Hut

Goats

Scrapie tags are an animal identification method that helps trace confirmed and suspected scrapie cases among goats or sheep. It is an identification method and a record-keeping requirement of the National Scrapie Eradication Program (NSEP) and a USDA mandate to eradicate scrapie. Wearing them means the animal, mainly goat or sheep, is afflicted with that disease.

This program tracks down scrapies back to the flock and farm of origin. That way, the farmer can identify the infected animals and separate them from the rest. Its primary goal is to help eliminate scrapies.

Do Dairy Goats need Scrapie Tags?

A scrapie tag is to identify animals afflicted with the scrapie disease and intended for slaughter. Rules and laws related to scrapie tags are different from state to state, but generally, dairy goats do not need scrapie tags as they are not being raised for their meat.

Dairy Goats do, however, need a tag or tattoo that has their herd ID number on it, which is assigned by the Department of Agriculture. This is to mark the goat as belonging to a specific farmer and specify that the goat is a dairy goat.

If you own dairy goats, you probably understand that there are several identification methods. The list is extensive, from plastic chains, ear notches, and tattoos to microchips and animal tags. 

Notably, identification is necessary for the registration, record keeping, and proof of ownership. And while tattoos are a permanent identification method, they’re somewhat painful and inconvenient to read. Ear tags work well on dairy goats. Unfortunately, these markers can easily get lost, mainly when your goat grazes in busy or crowded areas.

Each method has its pros and cons.

What is Scrapie

Scrapie is a chronic nervous system disease that affects goats and sheep. Scrapie is transmitted between a herd or flock. When the flock is infected, eradicating the disease is nearly impossible unless stringent control methods are applied. This means that the infected herd can experience significant production losses or even succumb to death in worst-case scenarios.

Unfortunately, scrapie has no cure. It may take up to 2 years after infection to show signs, which include;

  • Rubbing and itching
  • Wool Pulling
  • Biting at limbs
  • Bunny–hop movement
  • Aggressiveness and lack of coordination
  • Sensitivity to movement and noise, etc.
  • List Element
  • List Element

The illness can only be tested through the brain tissues after the dairy goat is dead! 

Do all Goats Need Scrapie Tags?

Not all goats need scrapie tags. As stated above, in general, dairy goats do not require scrapie tags as they are not being raised for their meat.

Goats raised as pets or for personal consumption do not generally require scrapie tags. Only goats intended for sale in commercial markets, to other farms, or even intended for the show need scrapie tags.

The USDA also mandates against the buying or selling of any goat that will be used for breeding without proper testing and documentation. They also warn against buying and selling any other livestock over 18 months old for any purpose unless that animal has been officially identified.

These rules are intended to put an end to a disease that costs American farmers about 25 million dollars every year and bring the country up to par with scrapie-free countries.

Let's look further into the question if dairy goats ever need scrapie tags.

Which Dairy Goats Need Scrapie Tags?

By now, you ought to know which dairy goats in your herd need a scrapie tag. Let’s say those goats with confirmed and suspected cases of scrapie, right? But that’s not all!

Dairy goats also need to be officially scrapie identified when being sold or leaving their premises. Basically, NSEP demands that goats that enter into commerce should have this identification. Some of the scenarios when dairy goats need scrapie tags are:

  • Attending exhibits
  • Going to slaughter
  • Going to sales
  • Attending livestock auctions

The following goat categories also need to be officially scrapie identified;

  • All dairy goats over 18 months of age
  • All sexually intact dairy goats of any age leased or sold for exhibition or breeding
  • Any other dairy goat that resides or is in contact with the infected goat

Note

Dairy goats below 18 months of age moving directly to a slaughter facility do not need to be scrapie identified. Also, healthy goats with no scrapie signs (and those that never leave the farm of origin) do not need the scrapie tags. NSEP advises farmers not to buy dairy goats of whatever age (for breeding) unless they are officially scrapie identified.


Which Ear Does the Scrapie Tag Go in?

When it comes to which ear the tag should go in, many farmers decide based on gender. They put the tags on the left if it's male and on the right if it's female. This makes the tag a useful tool for quickly distinguishing the sex of each goat. Some experts advise that the preferred placement for the tag is in the left ear

Here are some important considerations when placing the scrapie tags on dairy goats:

  • Avoid any prominent veins when attaching the tags to the ears as hitting them might harm to goat and lead to infection.
  • Plastic scrapie tags are also preferred for dairy goats that require shearing.
  • If you're to use a metal scrapie tag on your dairy goat(s), be sure to place it in the left ear. It should stay about a third of the way down from the head. Here, the tag will be more visible.
  • Never attach the tags to the head or skull. This is very uncomfortable for the animal and is highly prone to get infected. It is also more likely to be pulled out and lost -- which will require you to do some paperwork.
  • Don't use cheap tags. The reasoning behind this is obvious, cheap tags are more likely to break, detach, and become lost. Scrapie tags are things the goats will have for the rest of their lives, and losing them often will put you through the hassle of getting a new one and filing the paperwork.
  • Avoid low-fiber feed. Goats on this diet are often craving something to chew on. In some cases, they might start chewing on the tags of other goats.
  • The ear tagging should only be done on dairy goats over 18 months.
  • Imprinting requirements. The print and even color of the tags are different depending on the gender of the goat. The male side has up to 2 lines of imprinting of the producer's choice. The female side has an official flock number and a unique animal ID number.
  • Avoid using double-button round tags. They tend to create wounds or get snagged on fences, hairs, and other tags.

Importance of Scrapie Tagging

Scrapie tags will help identify the birthplace of older dairy goats whose brains are diagnosed with scrapie post-slaughter. The tags are also handy in locating the exact premise where the infected goats were produced and diagnosed with scrapie.

Do you need to move your dairy goats but don’t have the scrapie tags yet? If this describes your situation, you could try out any of the following solutions;

  • Contact your veterinarian
  • Tattoo the identification number into the animals that will be leaving the premise; or
  • If your vet doesn’t have scrapie tags, they should contact the Board of Animal Health to get the tags.

Important

Livestock markets require farmers to scrapie tag their dairy goats. Even so, different states have varying scrapie tagging requirements. Before tagging your dairy goats, consult the appropriate authorities and follow your state requirements.


Can You Remove a Scrapie Tag?

Scrapie tags are intended for permanent identification, and removing them is prohibited. Scrapie is a fatal degenerative disease affecting various breeds of sheep and goats, and following the federal and state guidelines aimed at controlling this concern, these tags are key.

You can remove the scrapie tag from your goat’s ear if it causes an infection. This commonly occurs if you tagged it too tight. Failure to remove the tag may tear the goat’s ear, cause pain, or result in an infection. Plus, if your goat is on the way to slaughter, and you determine that the tag weighs too heavily on its ear, you can remove it.

If it gets lost, the goat must be re-tagged as soon as possible and the incident is noted on the official records. 

Final Note

Now that kidding and lambing seasons are in full swing, every farmer should understand why dairy goats need scrapie tags. And as part of the scrapie eradication program, farmers are encouraged to obtain identification numbers for their dairy goats.

In need of a scrapie tag for your goats but not sure who to contact? Call 1-866-USDA-Tag or 866-873-2824) and request official scrapie goat tags, premises ID, or both.

This is not a Veterinarian Advice

The Ideas and Strategies presented on this website and the information are based on our research and experience. These strategies are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information and/or documents contained on this website do not constitute veterinarian or medical advice. You should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition your livestock or pets may have.



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