Charleston, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia sheep producers are being encouraged to have their rams tested for a genetic susceptibility to a mad cow-like illness.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is offering free blood tests in the hopes of eradicating scrapie.
State veterinarian Gary Kinder says the test will also determine if a ram has a genetic resistance to the disease that would make it a good breeder.
Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats and has been diagnosed in more than 1,000 flocks across the country.
Each year it causes significant loss of production in infected flocks and limits export marketing.
To participate in the voluntary testing program, call the WVDA Animal Health Division at (304) 558-2214.
(Copyright 2009 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)