Sheep Ireland scrapie genotypes get Department of Agriculture approval

The Sheep Ireland breed improvement programme has now been approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

The programme – which is a genotyping service – generates scrapie results as part of the National Genotype Programme.

Speaking to AgriLand, a spokesperson for Sheep Ireland said: “There has already been an impressive uptake in the subsidised genotyping of pedigree animals since it was launched in May of this year.

There have been over 1,400 pedigree animals subsequently ordered via the Sheep Ireland website, bringing the total number of Irish sheep genotyped to date close to 40,000 head.

“One of the major benefits of getting a DAFM scrapie result via Sheep Ireland is that the breeder can collect the sample themselves.

“The process to date required a vet to come on-farm and collect a blood sample from the animal being tested for scrapie genotyping.

“The vet was required to verify that the relevant blood sample was taken from the correct animal.

“However, the Sheep Ireland scrapie genotyping process now allows a DNA sample to be collected via a small ear tissue sample using a third tag,” he added.

“The number printed on this third tag corresponds to the animal’s existing National Sheep Identification System (NCIS) tag.

“DNA parentage verification verifies that the correct animal has been DNA sampled and ensures that the scrapie results are 100% robust and accurate.

“In order to achieve full DAFM approval, both parents of the sheep in question must also be genotyped, and both parents must successfully match their offspring. For the purchaser of rams, this parentage verification is a fantastic advantage,” he concluded.

What Is It?

Scrapie is a slow progressive terminal brain disease of adult sheep. It is an infectious disease and is thought to be spread mainly at lambing time.

It is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle.

Clinical signs of scrapie are most common in sheep three to four years-of-age.

Typical clinical signs include:

  • Change in behaviour: Lagging behind the flock, nervousness, and drooping of the ears;
  • Change in posture and movement: Head trembling and an inability to stand;
  • Skin irritation: Loss of wool;
  • Chronic weight loss.

Scrapie is a notifiable disease, which you are obliged to notify the DAFM of if a sheep is infected with the disease.