Goat Species Working Group Report -  April 2006

  Interim Report - DRAFT


Goats are currently covered in the USDA National Scrapie Eradication Program, and we believe the basic ID components of this existing program should be utilized as a framework for an interim ID program for goats.  Deficiencies in the original Scrapie ID plan have been addressed over the past  years, and improvements have been made. This background experience will be valuable as a transition to the implementation of a plan that more completely and uniformly addresses the goals and methods outlined in the NAIS documents moves forward.  These goals would address methods of providing  “48 hour” traceback for all species.  We acknowledge that the current Scrapie program currently excludes the following:

All goats moving into slaughter channels
Low-risk commercial goats which are defined as those:
   - raised for fiber and/or meat;
   - not registered or exhibited;
   - which have not been in contact with sheep;
   - not scrapie positive, high-risk or exposed animals;
   - not from an infected or source herd.

Wethers for exhibition

Animals moving for grazing, if no change in ownership occurs

It is acknowledged that the new comprehensive National Animal Identification System would eventually include these categories that are currently excluded with the Scrapie program.

The inherent differences between sheep and goats require different needs for identification. The goat, as a small ruminant species, shares several similarities with the sheep. However, the differences between these animals include, but are not limited to, eating habits (sheep graze and goats browse, thus tag retention is a serious concern); animal interaction with fencing of various types; ear thickness, texture, and range of ear types; and the broad uses of goats in general.  Goats are utilized for a range of operations, including dairy, meat, fiber, companion, packing/hiking, brush control (weed abatement and fire control), and biotechnology.  The number of digits to be placed on tags is also a challenge for both sheep and goats since the tag would need to be small and light weight, and yet to include 15 digits will make the numbers very small and possibly not legible. Therefore, it will be a challenge to establish a single method of identification that can be effective in all applications.

Premises ID

Since goat owners currently are already assigned premise ID numbers with the NSEP (Scrapie) program, we recommend using the current scrapie premises number during the phase-in period.  This could be linked initially, and later the new premise ID protocol would be implemented. 

Identification Devices

Goat breeders utilize a range of individual ID methods.  Each has specific advantages and disadvantages.   Currently, metal ear tags, plastic ear tags, electronic implants and tattoos are all accepted methods of identification for the Scrapie program. Ear tags, in general, have been found to be significantly unreliable, as retention is a major issue.   Research with RFID devices for goats is underway in other countries.   The technology is widely promoted and may prove to be acceptable as ID programs move forward, but there has been insufficient testing in goats in a variety of managements as of this date.   Completion of objective trials of RFID devices and readers for goats must address the wide range of managements and marketing systems in the U.S. as well as the variety of breeds of goats, which have a range of coats as well as ear types.  The move to a more uniform ID program is desirable, however the flexibility of options that can be utilized to accommodate this variety should be addressed.  For example, the LaMancha breed of dairy goats has a very small ear that makes it very difficult to utilize ear tags effectively.   Currently, caudal (tail) tattoos are used for ID purposes in this breed (ear tattoos are used in other dairy breeds, and some meat breeds as well).  

When one considers the necessity of shearing fiber goats such as the Angora and Cashmere breeds, fiber removal in the head and neck region increases the possibility of shearers accidentally cutting off ear tags.   A combination of design change; additional ID options, as well as educational efforts aimed at reducing this potential problem will be critical to a successful ID program for goats.

Electronic implants (EID) are being used in increasing numbers by goat breeders, and are accepted by several goat registries.  Breeders use caudal (tail), auricular (ear) and dorsal thoracic (withers) locations for implants.  The advantages include ease of application, retention, and less “cosmetic” damage to the animal, particularly those with show breeding stock.  The disadvantages include cost; lack of consistency among manufacturers (thus requiring different readers); no visual ID component; and lack of a USDA/FSIS approved site for the implantation.  EIDs are favored by many goat owners, but since there is no USDA approved site for electronic implants in goats, this area needs attention to address possible food safety concerns.  Auricular (ear) EIDs are approved for sheep.

There is a need for visual and electronically readable forms of ID as a longer-range goal.  In a disease outbreak, it would be desirable to be able to identify necropsied animals if readers aren't readily available.

Rumen boluses are a possible ID method which is currently being tested.

Implementation Time Table

Until electronic identification (RFID or other method) has been fully tested under the range of managements and environments; other methods of identification currently accepted with the Scrapie program should be acceptable for goat ID.  As those trials are completed and design changes identified, the transition to a uniform method consistent with NAIS protocol would move forward.    If sufficient funds are available to conduct this research and funds are provided to assist producers in the purchase of the devices, a three-year time frame could be adequate for implementation of a uniform national goat identification program.  We support continuation of the current cost-sharing approach used for the Scrapie program.

Group Lot Identification

Management systems that keep groups of goats together from birth to slaughter should have the option of using a Group Lot ID system.  Each group lot would have a unique identification number that would include the premises number, date assembled and two additional digits.  This arrangement is common particularly in raising kids for the holiday markets that go directly to slaughter.  Individual animals leaving the group would be required to have individual identification.


The GWG is still discussing which movements might be high risk and which might be low risk in terms of disease transmission.

Work To Date

The GWG believes it is important to work with industry to gather additional feedback before making final recommendations.  In an effort to provide information regarding the work of our group and NAIS in general, we are developing a website (USAnimalID.com).  We are also developing a survey that will be available online.  Breeders will be able to provide information that includes operation size, breeds, uses of goats, preferences for ID, rankings of high/low risk movement events and other information that might be of interest to the GWG as final recommendations are developed. 

Successful Implementation

The implementation of a successful national goat identification program will address and include the following components:

1.       A gradual transition to the new identification protocol by using the existing Scrapie program-approved ID methods initially. Continued flexibility of ID methods/devices should be allowed.  

2.       Evaluate a system that would allow existing ID methods to be incorporated into a uniform National ID System. For example, the unique tattoo or electronic implant requirement of a dairy goat registry could be tied to a registration number that conforms to NAIS standards. 

3.       Adequate research and field trials using a range of goat breeds and management environments.

4.       Cost-sharing approach for all involved parties. 

5.       Recognition that the cost of ID devices/methods for goats can be significant when compared to market value per head, and should not hinder the economic viability of the industry. 

6.       Involvement of industry (including producers, registries and organizations) as the planning process continues, to assure a realistically designed plan and to help ensure industry acceptance and participation.

7.       Continued cooperative efforts between the sheep and goat industries that will identify similarities between the plans for each species, while also recognizing the differences that require alternative considerations for each specie.

8.       Systems that can be incorporated with existing production/management information would encourage more producer participation. 

9.       Reasonable record keeping that combines with data electronically obtained and submitted. Protecting of confidentiality of producer information is a priority among producers.

10.    A comprehensive educational effort that targets producers, markets and consumers.

We also recommend ongoing communication our trading partners in North America while also communicating with other global partners to address the needs of animal identification.

The committee appreciates the opportunity to contribute to the discussion by operating as a separate Species Working Group.  We encourage solicitation of continued input via this committee as well as representation on an Oversight Committee or other body as may be established.

Goat Working Group Members:

Linda S. Campbell
Luray VA

Barry Arnett
Williamsburg, KY 

Jan Carlson
UC Davis Goat Teaching & Research Facility
Davis, CA 

Charley Christensen
Producers Livestock Auction Co.
San Angelo, Texas

Bennie Cox
Producers Livestock Auction Co.
San Angelo, Texas

Bonnie Chandler
Harvard MA

Carolyn Eddy
Estacada Or

Rene DeLeeuw
White Plains NY 

 Ray Hoyt
Producer/National Pygmy Goat Association
Minden, Nevada  

Stan Potratz
Producer/Premier Supplies
Washington IA

Jeff Ramseyer
Producer/U.S. Goat Producers Cooperative

Joe David Ross, DVM
Sonora TX

Joan Dean Rowe,  DVM
Department of Population Health & Reproduction
School of Veterinary Medicine
Davis, CA 

 Lisa Shepard
Producer/Performance Programs Coordinator, ADGA
Atascadero CA 

Marvin F. Shurley
Producer/President, American Meat Goat Association
Sonora TX 

 Diane L. Sutton
National Scrapie Program Coordinator
Riverdale, MD

 Robert Swize
American Boer Goat Association
San Angelo TX


Cindy Wolf, DVM
Chair, Sheep Working Group 
Producer/University of Minnesota
Rushford  MN
Linda Worley
Wayne OK