Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program

VSFCP General Information

What is the VSFCP? The VSFCP is a national flock/herd scrapie risk management program for the Canadian sheep and goat industries and is available to any sheep or goat producer who agrees to meet the requirements of the program. The primary benefit to participating producers is the individual risk protection against scrapie in their flock/herd. Over time, producers will have their flock/herd recognized as being at a much lower risk for scrapie than the rest of the farms in the national herd. This recognition can increase trade opportunities within Canada and allows increased access to the import of live animals from the United States. The long term goal of the VSFCP is to eradicate scrapie from the national flock and herd and to help open up market access for export.

VSFCP National Standards were developed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), in collaboration with the sheep and goat industries, as the basis for Canada’s on-farm, voluntary scrapie control program. It is intended to be a long-term, internationally recognized flock/herd scrapie control program. This program is unique as a CFIA approved disease control strategy. The CFIA only provides a guiding hand in ensuring that the program retains key requirements to meet international standards. The day-to-day management and verification is placed in the hands of industry. Once shown to be effective in mitigating the risk of disease, the VSFCP may be used as a template for other industry-led TSE control programs.

How does the VSFCP work? Given the nature of scrapie (see What is Scrapie?), infection in a flock/herd may go undetected for many years. As well, with no reliable live animal test for detecting the disease in individual animals, one-time testing and eradication is not possible. Working with these restrictions, the VSFCP is designed to gradually assess whether flocks/herds are currently infected and to minimize the risk of contracting scrapie in the future. Flocks/herds advance through the various levels of the program as the risk of scrapie infection decreases. Producers have the option of following one of three pathways under the program.

Pathway 1, the main pathway of the program, is modelled afterOIE standards. This pathway uses long term disease surveillance to reach certification in 5 years. Flocks/herds advance one level for every year that scrapie is not detected. The small ruminant industry and the CFIA is currently working to attain international recognition of this pathway.

Pathways 2 and 3 use live animal testing technologies, such as lymphoid tissue testing and/or genotyping for resistance to scrapie in addition to disease surveillance. Certification can be gained in fewer years via this route. However, it is not expected that pathways 2 and 3 will be internationally recognized in the near future.

Requirements for all pathways include:

  • Surveillance for the disease is made by submitting brain samples from all adult sheep and goats that die on-farm. If no animals die on farm during a 12-month period, a sample from at least one cull animal over 24 months must be submitted.
  • Producers must work with a veterinarian accredited with CFIA to deliver the VSFCP.
  • Producers must conduct an annual, accredited veterinarian supervised inventory of their flocks/herds and maintain documentation throughout the year on animals entering and leaving the premises.
  • The flock/herd must be closed to additions of female animals, except from flocks/herds of an equivalent or higher program status level. The source of rams, bucks and/or semen is not as restricted, although some conditions do apply in Pathways 2 & 3.

For details regarding the program rules see 'VSFCP National Standards/Rules'.

Benefits to sheep and goat producers—Over time, producers will have their flock/herd recognized as being at a much lower risk for scrapie than the rest of the farms in the national herd. The long term goal of this program is to eradicate scrapie and to help open up market access domestically and internationally. Short term benefits include:

  • individual risk protection against scrapie in your herd
  • increased trade opportunities within Canada
  • increased access to import live animals from the United States