This summer I’ve been collecting lymph nodes and brain stems for the Regulatory Scrapie Slaughter Surveillance (RSSS). After collection these tissue samples are sent to another lab for scrapie testing. Due to the lamb market seeing record prices there are less animals moving through Michigan slaughter facilities. Luckily this summer I’ve had the opportunity to visit many sheep operations for the USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS). NAHMS was begun in 1983 to establish a way to obtain current information concerning the health management of our nation’s livestock (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/downloads/NAHMS_brochure.pdf). Different animals are studied every year and at varying intervals depending upon what information is needed. Sheep are one of the animals being studied this year along with cattle death loss, small scale production, and beef feedlots. Previous NAHMS sheep studies were done in 1996 and 2001 (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/sheep/index.shtml#sheep2001).
The sheep study has focused on the following:
- Describe trends in sheep health and management practices from 1996 to 2011.
- Describe management and biosecurity practices used to control common infectious diseases, including scrapie, ovine progressive pneumonia, Johne’s disease, and caseous lymphadenitis.
- Estimate the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites and anthelmintic resistance.
- Estimate the prevalence of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae in domestic sheep flocks. Relate the presence of the organism in blood and nasal secretions to clinical signs and demographic and management factors.
- Facilitate the collection of information and samples regarding the causes of abortion storms in sheep.Determine producer awareness of the zoonotic potential of contagious ecthyma (sore mouth) and the management practices used to prevent transmission of the disease.
- Provide serum to include in the serum bank for future research.
For more info on the NAHMS program, go to this link – http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/sheep/downloads/sheep11/Sheep11_Brochure.pdf
This has been a great experience for me to gain more knowledge in sheep handling and sample collection as well as seeing what an AHPIS Veterinary Services field VMO (veterinary medical officer) does in the field.