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Recent breakthrough by USDA researchers regarding transmission of the OPP virus

has been a game changer. For more information, see our ‘Library’ and ‘Newsletter’ pages.

— ‘Elitest’ ELISA now Available in the U.S. —


Of more than 30 ELISAs noted for detection of OPP/CAE, ‘Elitest’ is the only one validated to standards of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). This test was developed through a collaborative effort by laboratories in the UK, Spain, Italy and Belgium, and is used in control and eradication programs worldwide, including Ontario and Minnesota.

‘Elitest’ is now offered by the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory with a fee of $6 per sample and no out-of-state surcharge. Submit 1 ml of serum for this test.





Fallon/Nagerl (New York)

Jackl (Wisconsin)

Camper (Montana)

Leder (Wisconsin)





Neaton (Minnesota)

Schultz (Wisconsin) Hiemke (Wisconsin)

Mackenzie (Wisconsin)

We’re always looking for great photos. Members please send your best shots to any director. Currently posted:

HOME PAGE, LEFT:   Hiemke (Wisconsin)         HOME PAGE, RIGHT:   Mackenzie (Wisconsin)





Walsh (New York)

Parker (Alberta, Can)

Reese (Minnesota)

Texel Society/Fisher

Catherine Camp, Bleak Hill Lincoln Longwools


703-527-2538  www.BleakHillLincolnLongwools.com   


Cindy/Mark Mackenzie, Observatory Hill Farm


608-424-1581   www.observatoryhillfarm.com


Our Newest Members

We welcome the following. See more information in our 2016-2017 Member Directory.

— Photo Credits —

— OPP Eradication Trial Continues in Minnesota —


In late 2013, following new research suggesting that OPP eradication may be possible without severe culling of ewes or orphaning lambs, the Minnesota Lamb & Wool Producers accepted an invitation to collaborate with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH), University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and College of Veterinary Medicine, USDA Veterinary Services, and the OPP Society in a trial to test a new eradication strategy.

All flocks have completed the 3rd round of testing and we’re happy to report that two have now attained 100% test-negative status. Most others continue to progress, and all have been refreshingly open with us regarding what happens in the real world vs. best laid plans.

Related articles and slideshows can be found on our Library page.

— Genetic Test for OPPV Susceptibility —

This test, TMEM154, was introduced in 2013 by GeneSeek, a Neogen Corporation Company in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was developed by USDA scientists at the Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska, working with GeneSeek, and is based on results validated in collaboration with USDA colleagues in Idaho and Washington state.

The test reports risk level for OPPV infection. (It does NOT tell you whether or not an animal is infected!) Animals at lowest risk can still become infected, and at least one strain of the OPP virus has adapted to infect all genotypes. But removing the most susceptible animals may, over time, be beneficial in efforts to reduce a flock’s overall infection level.

TMEM154 can be run on a sample of whole blood (1-2 cc in a lavender-topped EDTA tube) or on a blood-spot card (cards available from GeneSeek for $1 each). Cost is $12.  See our Library page for related info and submission form.

Important Note:  While some may opt to employ this new DNA test in their OPP control efforts, at this time the OPP Society does not advocate genetic selection as a route to eradication. In summary, ALL breeds are susceptible to infection with the OPP virus, so ALL shepherds need to be aware of this risk and the related need for biosecurity.

Amy Martell, VMD

Sioux Nation Ag Center—South Dakota



Anne Camper, Wuthering Flats Farm

English Leicester—Montana



Frank Van Etten, Little Bohemia Sheep Farm

Dorset x Ile de France x Polypay—Iowa



Paul J Wipf, Cascade Colony

Commercial Polypay—Montana

406-264-5364 (ext 112, 205)   


“I continue to teach the introductory sheep production course here at Iowa State University, and every year I teach students about OPP. The information you provide periodically makes it quite easy for me to keep my students up to date . . . Keep up the good work!”

Dr Curtis R Youngs


UNSOLICITED correspondence

Challenges for the Sheep Industry

Holly Neaton, DVM  March 30, 2016

(Though written for the Polypay newsletter, Dr. Neaton’s comments apply to all breeds.)

Productivity improvement and industry collaboration. These are 2 out of 4 goals of the ASI’s Lamb Industry Roadmap. In the winter Polypay newsletter Brett Pharo asked us what we, as an organization do to move the implementation of the Roadmap forward and help the American sheep industry make rapid productivity improvements.

One of the surest and most progressive ways would be to improve the health of the flocks. We spend time and money attempting to manipulate genetics and fail to realize that diseases hold our animals back from expressing the genetic traits we try so hard to improve.

I hear testimonies and horror stories from flock owners of all breeds who live all over the country. They call as they have seen the little OPP Concerned Sheep Breeder’s Society ad in The Shepherd or Sheep Industry News with my phone number in it describing a clinically Ovine Progressive Pneumonia virus infected sheep. I simply listen and give them some advice on diagnosing and control of the virus.

USDA reports that close to 30% of the sheep in the USA are infected with the OPP virus. A friend of mine who is very involved in the swine industry can’t believe the sheep industry doesn’t care about a disease that is so prevalent.

The OPP virus only lives in the cells of sheep. It doesn’t hang around in the environment like other nasty diseases that we could talk about another time that need to be gone also (Johnes, Caseous Lymphadenitis, Scrapie). You buy the OPP virus when you buy the sheep.

The clinically wasting sheep or hardbag ewe is only the tip of the iceberg. Production is affected a long time before clinical signs become evident – poorer milk production, reproduction efficiency, lameness, colostrum quality. The virus sneaks in to slowly invade and affect productivity. You just buy more and more milk replacer and cull younger and younger ewes.

The USDA MARC in Clay Center Nebraska has been researching this virus over the last few decades. This has revealed some wonderful news regarding how the virus is transmitted. We have used this research to run an Eradication Trial in Minnesota with the help of the USDA, Board of Animal Health, MN Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers and the OPP Concerned Sheep Breeders Society.

We are in our 3rd year of the trial and have found that if the protocols for avoiding transmission and testing are followed, the virus can be controlled without orphaning lambs or shipping all your adult ewes. All management and testing is aimed at the replacement ewe lambs, keeping them free from the virus by avoiding contact with the adult flock after weaning.

We unfortunately have also found that using genetics to breed your way out of OPPV infection does not work. We have suspicions that certain genotypes affect how the virus is recognized or controlled in the animal but obviously much more research is needed. We sincerely hope the USDA continues to fund and encourage this research.

The Eradication Trial information can be found at:



www.oppsociety.org (look in the Library)

The USDA is responsive to industry needs. They approached the OPP Society several years ago to ask if they could be of any help when they found their presence was no longer needed for Scrapie eradication but they still desired to keep involved with the sheep industry. They may not have money to directly spend but their field staff are out there and want to be involved with producers.

Hence the MN Eradication Trial. The USDA and MN BAH DVMs and technicians collect all the samples and confirm inventories. The MN VDL gives a discount on the ELITEST (an ELISA test used in other countries found to be much more accurate for small ruminant lentivirus detection) and the Minnesota Lamb & Wool Producers Ass’n donates for each animal tested also. This brings the cost down to $2 per head plus materials.

Wouldn’t it be great if this could be a nationwide program supported by the USDA? We asked a few representatives to suggest this to the ASI Health Committee and state representative committees at the meeting in Scottsdale and found no response or interest.

On a personal note, I work with medical device companies who use sheep for many of their research projects. I am constantly searching for healthy sheep to fill their project orders but they are getting harder to find. They need to be negative for OPP and free from CL. Both have invaded so many of our flocks. I am also scared to death of purchasing rams from a sale or any flock that has not tested though I am in need of new genetics.

I have had Polypays for 30 years, purchasing my first ram via air freight from Crumpled Horn Ranch in Montana. They told me at that time they were OPP free and to watch out for the virus.

So what am I suggesting? Maybe a discussion on how the Polypay breed – one of the most productive and seemingly progressive using NSIP information – could lead the way by using improvement of animal health as a key to reach both of half of the goals of the Roadmap: increasing productivity and industry collaboration.

Anyone want to talk about it?

Holly Neaton DVM

Watertown, MN



                                                                     (Article also appeared in the June 2016 issue of “The Shepherd” magazine.)