Emily Chamelin, who must be one of the top shearers in the world (certainly in the U.S.), alerted fellow shearers to some unfortunate news today, news I want to share here. Current and prospective shearing clients: I now charge more to shear sheep with metal Scrapie tags.

Apparently, the USDA only provides *metal* Scrapie tags for free now. Plastic Scrapie tags must be purchased. Metal Scrapie tags–like any metal in a fleece (staple, bottle cap, wire)–are dangerous. The American Shearers Council has long said metal tags are a hazard and should be phased out, and I am disappointed that the USDA does not seem to either comprehend this or, if they do, to care. I will have to charge more if your flock becomes a metal tag flock.

Emily says she is using this additional charge to start a “when not if” hospital fund, the inevitable result of a handpiece lock-up. Here is a video of what happens when a handpiece locks up, most commonly the result of hitting a metal ear tag accidentally. Pay attention at the 1:00 minute mark:

The handpiece swings violently, smashing into the hand and/or forearm. This usually results in broken bones, and/or the comb entering the shearer’s arm and cutting whatever it can reach – bone, tendon, muscle, maybe everything. Shearers’ careers, and lifelong physical mobility and dexterity, have ended because of metal ear tags.

Please remember this when you order Scrapie tags for your new lambs. Keep your shearer safe: Avoid any metal, all metal, at all costs.

Shame on you, USDA. Shame. My next email is to ASI, and I hope to heaven they will address this on their next trip to D.C.