The chief concern of the shearers attending the American Sheep Improvement Association Wool Council’s summer meeting this month was producer’s use of the metal scrapie ear tags. If the shearers had their way, use of the metal tags would be discontinued immediately.
Metal tags are many times not visible and when a clipper hits a metal tag, a shearer can be severely injured. A first-hand account of a shearer being air-lifted from a shearing site after severing every tendon, nerve, ligament and the main vein in his wrist was conveyed to drive the point home. More than $400,000 in medical bills were incurred and the shearer’s career was abruptly ended.
The council drafted a proposed policy that reads: WHEREAS in the United States it is mandatory to tag an animal with a scrapie ear tag, which is available in both metal and plastic versions free of charge to the producer; WHEREAS metal ear tags are dangerous to shearers due to risk of injury to both the shearer and the sheep if the tag is caught in the comb and cutter from a lock-up; BE IT RESOLVED that the ASI Wool Council and the United States shearers request that all metal ear tags be removed from the supply in the United States and producers use the plastic tags that are available free of charge. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all new animals are to be tagged with the plastic tags.
White plastic scrapie tags are available to producers at no cost — just like the metal tags — through USDA/APHIS. ASI will further explore the use of plastic ear tags in the months to come.