What is Scrapie?

What is scrapie?

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats. Scrapie is slow to develop, usually takes more than a year and a half for clinical signs to appear in an infected animal, although it has been known to take up to eight years to develop. Typically, cases occur in animals between two and five years of age. Symptoms include apprehension, tremors, incoordination or abnormal gaits, extreme weight loss and poor wool coat. Once an animal appears ill it will generally die in one to two months.

While the exact cause of scrapie is not certain, the disease is associated with the presence of an abnormal form of a protein called a prion. A sheep with a QQ genotype is believed to be more susceptible to scrapie if it is exposed to the disease, but could not develop scrapie without becoming in contact with the disease, and even then may not (see below re birthing).

Scrapie is typically spread through fluid and tissue from the placentas of infected females. It can be transmitted from an infected female to her offspring at birth, or to other animals exposed to the same birth environment. Males can contract scrapie, but they do not transmit the disease to other animals. So why did CFIA kill all the Wholearth rams?

Is scrapie a human health risk?

NO. According to Health Canada, scrapie is not a human health risk.

Did any of the Shropshire sheep test positive for scrapie when CFIA did a live test?

NO. All were found negative for scrapie in the live rectal biopsy tissue testing which has 88% accuracy. Repeated testing would have raised the percentile. Even the dead testing of the brain obex is not 100% accurate.

Have any Wholearth Shropshire sheep ever shown symptoms or signs of scrapie?

NO. Symptoms include apprehension, tremors, incoordination or abnormal gaits, extreme weight loss and poor wool coat. Once an animal appears ill it will generally die in one to two months. The Wholearth flock did not exhibit any symptoms whatsoever.

How long  does the average sheep in the Wholearth flock live for?

Most commercial sheep live about 6 or 7 years until they are culled. Heritage Shropshires are known for their longevity and many of the Wholearth ewes have lived to 10, 11, 12 years of age while still producing healthy lambs. The original foundation Miller ram lived to be 14 years of age and even sired 12 healthy lambs that year. He was healthy, had all his teeth, was eating well, became arthritic in his front legs so he was euthanized in a quiet ceremony in April 2010 and buried in a hilltop plot overlooking his flock and pasture.

The Alberta sheep Wholearth Alder WHE24S that tested positive was born at the Wholearth farm five years ago. Is it possible that sheep contracted the disease from another source, enroute to Alberta or at the Alberta farm?

Yes.  CFIA has thus far been unable to determine how the sheep in the Alberta case was infected and have decided that since they do not know they determined to destroy all the QQ genotype sheep in the Wholearth flock, despite the absence of any signs of scrapie in the flock, and despite the fact that all have live tested negative.

** Wholearth Alder WHE24S ewe gave birth to two lambs . How come both of them tested negative for scrapie?

CFIA has indicated to us that they believe scrapie is passed on to the offspring by an infected via birthing (but not necessarily). They also state that a QQ genotype is susceptible so it would be almost certain that a QQ offpspring of an infected scrapie positive mother such as WHE 24S ewe would pass scrapie on to one or both of her offpspring lambs PDN84W ( ARQ/ARQ) and PDN96U (ARR/ARQ) .  However, CFIA reported that both of the offspring  tested negative.  How is this possible? This raises even more questions surrounding the possible misidentification of WHE 24S or the possiblility she contracted it on the Alberta farm after birthing.


If you have any questions about this case please email us and we will post here.

9 thoughts on “What is Scrapie?

  1. Do you know what law the CFIA claims to be acting under? Would they provide you with financial compensation? When are they planning to destroy your sheep? Have you consulted a lawyer about whether the CFIA can be stopped?

    1. Karen I was actually going to call you in answer to the last question, so thanks for posting. The CFIA does provide compensation however these genetics are pretty much irreplaceable. According to their protocol, an evaluator comes to determine the value of each sheep..so some may be valued at $200. and the highest they can go for a registered breeding ewe is $1,200. If they paid me $5,000. per sheep, where will I find sheep to replace them. I could look into obtaining semen from British RR rams but it is quite cost prohibitive for a small farmer. Ideally one would need both ewes and rams and regulations are in place now to only allow semen from the U.K.

      1. Peace Sister Montana,

        I need your help in understanding the charges of CFIA. If you could provide direct links to the official charges, it would be great help.

        Peace Sister Montana.

  2. Montana I sent you a reply to your e-mail and put a phone number of someone who might help give you some answers to your problem. Good Luck Norm

  3. I have raised sheep for 40 years, numerous breeds. I have Katahdins now and have for the past 10 years. I do not have them tested for the scrapie genotype because when I first started out, I had 4 yearling rams tested that I had raised, and found that the best ram by far was QQ. I sold him for slaughter, and have always regretted it.
    I also understand that there have been rare cases of animals that are RR, that have contracted scrapie.

  4. Hello Montana, just writing you a message because I feel so sad when I read what you and your sheep have been through. Those sheep are so beautiful. I hope everything will turn out fine for you and that you will continue raising your sheep in peace after all this is over.

  5. I’d like to know on what terms they are charging you? What criminal act did you commit? Let’s just say hypothetically that your sheep that was sent to Alberta did get this disease from your farm ( though from the evidence I highly doubt it). Who are they to blame you? You can’t control nature. Besides shouldn’t the fact that they have massacred and tested your sheep with the results coming back negative be enough to redeem you? This whole thing is making me upset. I am so sorry for your loss and the struggles ahead of you. I just want you to know I’m on your side 🙂

  6. Someone on Facebook shared your story and that’s how I found this. I have no idea how I can help you, all I can say is I will share to my best social media abilities and your story has made me weep. It is horrible horrible, and yet another example of what institutions/corporations can do because they appear more powerful than just one person or a few people. Abuse of their power is disgusting. I wanted to move to Canada perhaps, but I am not sure if this sort of thing is accepted. Although issues like this exist in the entire world…unfortunately.

  7. Hi Montana dear…..I am sorry for your loss and am so disheartened by this situation and the sheer lack of humanity and obvious cold hearted CFIA robots there in your country.Do you know if they were at least humanely put down? I will keep you and your passed on flock in my thoughts and prayer’s.

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