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APHIS shares import regulation updates for sheep and goats

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

WashingtonD.C – On Dec. 2, in a final rule published on the Federal Register, the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) shared its ruling regarding import regulations for sheep, goats and their byproducts.

                  The current regulation prohibits the importation of sheep products from countries considered a risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The new ruling removes remaining BSE import restrictions on sheep, goats and byproducts and adds import restrictions on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) for wild, zoological and other non-bovine ruminant species, including scrapies in goats and sheep. 

                  The rule comes after APHIS conducted a review of current scientific literature and evaluations BSE, and found changes were needed in order to continue to protect the U.S. from introduction and transmission of disease. 

Import rules

                  In order to protect against the introduction and spread of diseases among livestock and pets, APHIS regulates the importation of animals into the U.S., including animal products, byproducts, hay, straw, semen and embryos. 

                  Current regulations address two diseases relevant to sheep and goat populations: scrapie and BSE. Both diseases belong to the family of TSE diseases, which includes chronic wasting disease found in deer and elk and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease found in humans.

                  The current regulations allow the importation of sheep and goats for immediate slaughter or restricted feeding for slaughter from Canada, granted the animals are under 12 months of age and not pregnant. 

                  The rule shared, “Further refinement of the regulations is in order given the latest scientific information regarding BSE transmission in sheep and goats. With the current findings, it doesn’t appear to be necessary to continue with precautions or restrictions on the importation of sheep and goats or their byproducts with regards to BSE, except in certain limited situations.”

                  Naturally occurring BSE has not been identified in sheep and has only been documented in two goats. 

APHIS explained, “Both goats were born prior to the initiation of extended ruminant feed bands and ongoing surveillance has not shown evidence indicating BSE is circulating within domestic sheep and goat populations, suggesting import restrictions are not warranted to address BSE risk.” 

Scrapie regulation requirements 

                  BSE-related restrictions are no longer needed per the rule, but APHIS is updating scrapie requirements in order to protect U.S. herd flocks. Any livestock not transported directly to slaughter, or a designated feedlot then to slaughter, must be transported from a scrapie-free country or flock with a herd certification program. 

                  APHIS proposed the rule outline in September of 2016. The proposal encompassed data from a thorough review with scientific literature, international guidelines, evaluations and considered comments. 

                  Going forward, APHIS will allow importation of certain wild, zoo or other non-bovine ruminant species on a case-by-case basis. The agency will evaluate the disease risk of each animal and the receiving entity’s ability to manage risks before deciding to issue an import permit. 

ASI input

                  American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) Senior Policy and Information Director Chase Adams commented on the new rule, noting, “The rule opens the door for future imports of lamb from the United Kingdom (UK), as well as from other nations and expanded trade in live animals, putting additional import pressure on the U.S. market, which is already heavily influenced by imports.”

                  “ASI is continuing to ask USDA and the administration to prioritize export opportunities for U.S. producers before opening additional import channels,” Adams shared. “In the wake of the UK exit from the European Union, the largest export destination, ASI is working with Congress and the administration to understand the potential impacts of this rule, alongside state affiliates and producer leadership to protect the interest of sheep producers.” 

                  The proposed changes will continue to guard against TSEs entering the U.S., while allowing additional animals and products to be imported. The final rule is expected to be in effect on Jan. 3, 2022. 

                  Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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