A while ago, I got two sheep. I got plenty of advice on what to feed them and what shelter and what-all... So then someone says that I need to get a Scrapie tag for my one little lamb. I get handed a phone number for someone in an agriculture department I have never heard of, for a tag I have no idea where to put, for a disease I'm still confused by...
I ASSUME, after gathering bits and pieces, that scrapie makes sheep scrape their bellies, or wool, and rub on everything (how the heck can you tell a scrapie sheep from an itchy one I do not know). I also now know that mad cow is a prion type disease and scrapie is also a type of prion. Mad cow is really bad, so scrapie must also be bad. And I have to put in ear tags so if they dissect the brain of my sheep and see prions, they then get to come kill off the rest of my flock.
(I hear now that Scrapie is mandatory and there were voluntary programs. The misc Agriculture department lady told me my tags would come in the mail, and the number on them would be MY number. There was nothing said about if I was "voluntary" or "mandatory.")
I got a BUTTLOAD of tags in the mail, and a HUGE thing that would make ladies in the mall run in terror, and a pencil picture of what I hope was an ear, otherwise my sheep are tagged wrong. ... And now, I read posts that say they want to low-jack my sheep with satellite uplinks.
I have 14 sheep now, and expect more every day, but still don't get what my sheep have to do with 9/11, or my horses with terrorism. I called my agriculture department about ewe retention -- which doesn't matter, since my ewes all live here anyway. But I can't get anyone to tell me if I need an agriculture department number to keep the Homeland Security office happy.
Maybe its those prions again?
Ok, now that I've had a cynical laugh about the mis-communications surrounding the various farm and animal identification programs, I have to admit things haven't been so bad for me.
Ear tags with a unique identification number for each animal are generally required in the United States in order to register that goat with any national or regional breeding program, transport a goat across state lines (due to state/county health inspection paperwork requirements), or exhibit or sell the goat in a public place (like a State Fair). This I can understand. Most exhibitions are great places to transfer disease, so it makes sense to require unique identification for each goat for which there must be a certification of health issued by a certified veterinarian within 30 days of that show.
My experience with the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture regarding goat identification was far clearer that the above discussion about sheep. At the time that I called to register, the farm ID program was voluntary for goat owners, and the scrapie program is still voluntary (there is some debate about scrapie affecting goats anyway). No one has ever contacted me regarding my farm ID, and the two properly-tagged animals that I sold to New Mexico were received without any problems and with proper health and transport paperwork.
The gent with whom I spoke at the VA Ag Dept counseled me on the sizes of the tags and the printing options available, so I ended up pretty much with what I wanted. The tags are a tad bigger than asthetically pleasing (and I will never choose white again!) but they have all the information I need and are easy to read from a distance.
Sancho-goat was born on our farm, will never go to a show, and is expected to spend his entire life with us. He does not have any tags at all. And that's ok. If he runs away I'm not sure I'd want to admit to knowing him. ::laugh::
The four sheep I briefly owned were already tagged by the source farm, and I gave them away locally without passing them through any public area.