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How to Get Scrapie Tags for Sheep and Goats

Do you know how to get scrapie tags for sheep and goats in your state?

How to get free scrapie tags for sheep and goats is a question I get quite a bit from other breeders. Some breeders don’t know they need scrapie tags until it’s too late. And they don’t even know why they need them. 

Scrapie tags are needed to sell sheep and goats in every state. It is part of a federal wide program designed to eradicate the scrapies disease. I’ll tell you how it works in a little bit. 

But first, you might be more enticed to learn how to get free scrapie tags (you will have to pay for the applicator) for sheep and goats by learning what you could potentially be dealing with. So, what is scrapie?

Listen to the Podcast Episode featuring NEW UPDATES here:

First of all, what is Scrapie?

Well, it’s a disease. A highly contagious disease that affects the central nervous system. The disease is thought to be spread most commonly by a mother to her offspring and other young animals in the herd by coming in contact with the placenta and fluids. 

Classified as TSE, scrapie is highly comparable to BSE found in cattle or FSE in cats. Here’s more information about Scrapie.

Symptoms of Scrapie

So, what does Scrapie look like? Here are some clinical symptoms to watch for: 

  • Behavioral Changes
  • Tremor
  • Loss of coordination
  • Weakness
  • Lip Smacking
  • High Stepping or Swaying

Do these symptoms sound familiar to you? You might think they sound like other diseases such as: 

  • Listeriosis
  • Polio
  • Pneumonia
  • Pregnancy Toxemia

So, scrapie is determined by a slightly different physical test. 

How Scrapie is Determined

Since scrapies symptoms look like several more common diseases sheep and goats could get, state veterinarians use a combination of three factors to guarantee the presence of scrapies:

  • Clinical Symptoms
  • History of the Animal
  • Biopsy of the lymph node inside the third eye lid of the live animal. 
  • or Brain Tissue Sample in the deceased animal. 

The biopsy and/or brain tissue sample is determined positive or negative by looking at it under a microscope. What is the vet looking for? 

Simply abnormal prion protein. Isn’t science just cool? But, scrapies is a disease that you don’t want your animals to spread if they are indeed affected. 

Hence the purpose of the Scrapies Eradication Program! Your part in this program is learning how to get free scrapie tags for sheep and goats.

hot to get free scrapie tags for sheep and goats

How the United States is Eradicating Scrapie

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented a program designed to trace the origin of a scrapie outbreak. 

Here are the key parts to the program: 

  • Identification of the scrapie disease by testing and using USDA ear tags.
  • Tracing by use of scrapie tags with premise id’s. 
  • Guiding sheep & goat producers with infected flocks and herds with effective clean up strategies.

So, the program is fairly simple. Now that you understand the program, here’s how you can help out for free. 

Why Should You Care About Scrapie Tags?

Despite the federal eradication program established in the United States, you never know when an outbreak can occur. Therefore, it’s your responsibility as a breeder of sheep and/or goats to properly identify sheep and goats sold off your location. 

First of all, know that there are some exemptions to using scrapie tags that I will get to later. If you don’t meet proper exemptions, here’s how to get free scrapie tags for sheep and goats. 

So, when you call in to your state or USDA office, you are assigned a premise id. Every tag you receive for your flock will fall under your premise id. 

Please understand that the scrapie eradication program is not a program designed to destroy the sheep and goat producer. Rather, it’s designed to trace back to the original herd if an outbreak does occur. Because this disease spreads so quickly, the origin and every animal in it’s path must be nailed down immediately. 

Also, your local auction will be looking for tags in every animal when you bring them in to sell. Especially breeding animals! If you do not have scrapie tags in the ears of your sheep or goats, the auction will tag them with their own premise scrapie tags. However, you still have to pay for them. 

And it’s about $2 per tag that comes out of your check. Consequently, you could have gotten them for free. 

So, why not have a box on hand to tag your sheep and goats?

Yes, it’s that simple. The ultimate goal is to stop the spread of scrapie. And tagging animals is your way of doing your part. 

So, what do scrapie tags look like?

Scrapie tags are small and can be tagged into the ears of all sizes of animals. They are great for tagging newborns up to senior animals. 

And the tags are generally white in color. The shape of the tag will vary from state to state.  For example, in my state the tags are triangle shaped. 

Also, you can order colored tags and even tags with your farm name on them. But you will have to pay for the extra. 

Another thing to know about how to order free scrapie tags for sheep and goats is this: The state where your goats are is the state you need to call to order the tags. And I’m going to talk more about this next. 

Where do you order scrapie tags?

So, here’s where it gets tricky. How to get free scrapie tags for sheep and goats can be answered by one simple phone call. But, who do you call? 

Well, it’s not as tricky as you might think. I’ve done the work for you. I have called every single state USDA office to make sure the number is correct for ordering tags. And I’ve made a printable for you to download HERE

Because I wanted you to learn how to get scrapie tags for sheep and goats EASILY! 

Now, all you have to do is call.

When I called to every state around the country, I learned that most states use the USDA offices. While other states use state offices. There’s one office for five states in the Northeast. 

And one state has an employee who works out of his home just to take care of scrapie tags. However, since the program is federal, it generally works the same way from state to state.

So, there’s two ways to call and get your free scrapie tags:

  • Call TOLL FREE 1-866-USDA-TAG or 1-866-873-2824. However, the phone number only works for the state where you are and/or where your phone is issued. For example, if you are in Kansas but have a Missouri phone number, you will get the Missouri office when you call. 

Thus the reason for this cheat sheet with every up to date phone number for how to get free scrapie tags for sheep and goats. 

  • Call the number listed for the state which your goats are in. Be sure you have a premise ID assigned to you. Pay attention because some states require you to call a different number for a premise id FIRST and then another number to order tags. I’ve listed all that out for you. 

Free is free. The tags ship out within a couple of weeks. What will be in your box? 

What do you get for FREE?

Of course, you receive the number of metal  tags you asked for. 

In the past, you used to get the applicator for free. But now with the new changes, you have to purchase the applicator to put in the tags. Average cost of the applicator is $25.

how to get free scrapie tags for sheep and goats

Scrapie tag premise numbers designated for YOUR farm and flock

Again, your tags are assigned a premise id. This id is important in case of an outbreak for tracing purposes. So, don’t share your tags with another breeder. These tags are specific to your place.

You should pay attention to scrapie tags or identification when you purchase an animal. Does the animal have a tag? Other form of ID? Record this id for your records to keep track of where your animals came from. 

Furthermore, when an animal was born on your property and leaves your property for another one, you need to tag it with your assigned scrapie tag. Scrapie tags allow trace-ability of the infected animal back to your farm if the outbreak does occur. 

It’s all about being a responsible sheep and goat producer. It’s about protecting the industry from a contagious disease outbreak. 

All sheep and goats sold should have some sort of identification

Responsible livestock producers have exceptional records. And this includes identification of all animals. 

So, you could either purchase tags at the feed store for your sheep and goats. Or you could learn how to get scrapie tags for sheep and goats instead. Have I mentioned the metal ones are free? 

Scrapie tags work great for identification:

  • They all have a different number assigned to them. 
  • Have I mentioned they are FREE?
  • They are small and light weight
  • Finally, free scrapie tags are easy to apply

** Fact Sheet from USDA the Includes Companies to Purchase Plastic Tags ** 

Don’t want to use tags? No worries! Some breeders avoid using tags because they are easily ripped out of the ear. There is an exemption that excludes your sheep and goats from needing a scrapie tag. 

Scrapie Tag Exemptions

There is one nation wide exemption listed in place of scrapie tags:

  • Tatoos – Assigned by a Breed Organization

If the animal your selling is or previously shown, it’s registered and assigned to a tattoo, more than likely. Tattoos are used for trace-ability. 

More exceptions followed state by state. Therefore, when you call your state office, ask if there are any exemptions to scrapie tags. Make sure you understand the program and abide by it for your own records. 

Good responsible breeders keep excellent records. If you own or obtain an animal without a scrapie tag, it’s your responsibility to properly identify that animal. You also need to document where the animal came from…just in case. 

Because accurate records achieve the ultimate goal of Scrapies Eradication program. 

how to get free scrapie tags for sheep and goats

Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal of the program is NO OUTBREAKS. But, there is always a chance of an outbreak. Hence the need for a trace-ability program to prevent the spread. 

And that trace-ability program is in place. Now, we all need to do our part as breeders. We need to be able to trace the infected animal back in order to pin point the origin of the problem. 

So, with that said, do you understand why you need to implement scrapie tags into your herd management plan? Do it for your industry. Do it for the sustainability of your own herd

Finally, Do It For Your Fellow Sheep/Goat Breeders

And do it for your customers and potential customers. Become open and honest within your industry. Even if you’ve never had an outbreak of scrapie before, you never know when it could happen. 

Because it could happen. So, let’s all unite and do our part to identify our sheep and goats. Let’s work together to eradicate the scrapie disease!


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