Alaska sheep and goat producers encouraged to participate in a pilot study to determine the prevalence and distribution of M.ovi bacteria in domestic sheep and goats and the potential impact on Alaskan wild sheep and goat populations.
Anchorage, Alaska (July 11, 2017). The Office of the State Veterinarian is seeking help from Alaska sheep and goat producers as well as veterinarians and anyone else in Alaska who owns sheep and/or goats to participate in a pilot study to determine the prevalence and distribution of the Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M.ovi) bacteria in domestic sheep and goats, wildlife, and captive ungulates in the state.
The study will help determine if domestic sheep and goats in Alaska may carry M.ovi and present a risk to passing the pathogen to wild sheep and goat populations. Outbreaks of pneumonia have caused severe and drastic population losses in several big horn sheep herds in the western states in the lower 48.
The study is confidential, and there will be no charge for running the diagnostic tests. To help keep costs down for sheep and goat owners, the Alaska Farm Bureau will cost share with members who participate in this study. The Alaska Farm Bureau will reimburse Farm Bureau members up to $200 for the first vet visit and $100 for the second and third visits.
In 2016, the Wild Sheep Foundation proposed amending a regulation that would remove domestic sheep and goats from the ‘clean list’ and add fencing, permits and other requirements for sheep and goat owners in Alaska. This proposal known as “Prop 90,” was delayed at the 2016 Board of Game meeting after significant outcry by the public and others citing a lack of authority to regulate domestic animals and the lack of any information that would demonstrate that wild sheep populations are at risk of contracting pathogens from domestic species.
While the proposal is expected to be revisited this fall, the Sheep and Goat Working Group, organized by the Alaska Farm Bureau and composed of the Office of the State Veterinarian, representatives from the agricultural community, sheep and goat owners, other state agencies (Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture), and the Alaska Wild Sheep Foundation, have been meeting to develop a plan to address the underlying concern that domestic sheep and goats could transmit pathogens to wild populations.
What is MYCOPLASMA OVIPNEUMONIAE (M.ovi)
In the western U.S., bighorn sheep populations have experienced severe and drastic populations losses (up to 75-95%) due to outbreaks of pneumonia, in some cases following interaction with domestic sheep and goats. Currently, these outbreaks are being attributed to the bacterium Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M.ovi), which only seems to cause disease in species like wild sheep and goats and Musk ox.
In domestic sheep and goats, positive testing animals may not show clinical signs, but producers are seeing benefits in their herds and flocks when positive animals are removed.
Due to the structure of farms in Alaska, the risk of disease transmission from domestic livestock to wildlife is lower than in other areas of the country. However, there is little known about the prevalence and distribution of M.ovi-associated respiratory disease and the impact, if any, of this bacterium on wild sheep and goats in Alaska.
M.ovi Study in Alaska’s Sheep and Goats
The State Vet’s office is undertaking a pilot study in collaboration with the Sheep and Goat Working Group, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Veterinary School, the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services. In order to obtain a large and representative set of data, the Office of the State Vet is seeking help from Alaska farmers and veterinarians.
What does the pilot study entail?
Participants will fill out a survey and answer general questions about management practices on the farm. A trained veterinarian or technician will then collect samples (blood, conjunctival swab, nasal swab) from each member of the herd or flock. The samples will be identified by a code known only to the sample collector and owner of the animal.
The samples will be shipped free of charge to the USDA Agricultural Research Laboratory and the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for analysis. The farm code-protected results will be sent to the veterinarian who collected the samples so the owner is aware of the results. The farm coded data will also be sent to the OSV who will share with the Sheep and Goat Working Group. None of these organizations will be informed of the identity or location of the participants.
If you are interested in participating, contact the Office of the State Veterinarian, (907) 375-8215, your local veterinarian, or Amy Seitz at the Alaska Farm Bureau for more information.
About the Alaska Farm Bureau:
The Alaska Farm Bureau is a chapter of the America Farm Bureau Federation, an independent, non-governmental, voluntary organization governed by and representing farm and ranch families united for analyzing their problems and formulating action to achieve educational improvement, economic opportunity and social advancement and, thereby, to promote the national well-being.
The Alaska Farm Bureau’s mission is to improve the economic well-being and expansion of agriculture and to enrich the quality of life for all Alaskans.
Alaska Farm Bureau