I know it may seem odd to those not in the business, but sheep-raising is full of paperwork. There is, of course, the application for registration papers for any lambs that we’ll keep for breeding, but that is not all. I keep a computer program that helps with many of our records. In the old days, shepherds used barn books to document everything done to each sheep: vaccinations, hoof trimmings, medications, shearings, etc. Now, to organize such information and allow easier access to each small bit, I record everything into a computer program called Flockfiler. It has become our barn book, and since all the information is computer-searchable, it saves me hours of manual searching every year.
The program is also helpful in other ways. Every time we sell a sheep out of state, the animal must be inspected by our veterinarian and issued a health certificate that is good for transport if used within 30 days. You can put multiple sheep on one certificate, but only if they are all going to the same destination; otherwise there needs to be one certificate for each drop-off point, listing all sheep for that delivery.
Every state has its own requirements for the importation of sheep. Some states require only the health certificate. Others require that after the inspection and certificate, the vet must call the state veterinary office for a permit number. Once the permit number is written on the certificate, those states are satisfied — but many other states have additional requirements. They may ask for various health tests, based on the diseases that the particular state hopes to eradicate — and those tests can add up to a tidy sum! Several years ago, we sold an adult ram to a flock in another state. The ram was sold for $250, but the tests for the health certificate and permit came to over $200, and the transport for the ram came to another $150 or so — making the ancillary costs for the ram’s trip quite a bit more than the original cost of the ram!
Although we never move an animal across state lines without the necessary paperwork, we are almost never asked to produce those papers. We always pass along the paperwork to the buyers, so if the state vet ever asks to see any of the forms at a later date, they will have them. I’ve never heard of anyone who has been asked to produce those papers, but we always play it safe. In our fifteen years of buying and selling sheep, we were asked to produce the paperwork for our Iowa State Livestock Veterinarian twice — and we were happy we had it!
So when I loaded Livia and Ophelia into the truck for the recent trip to California, I made sure we had the appropriate inspection, health certificate, and permit number. Because they were supposed to leave in July, and that trip was cancelled due to illness in the destination flock, we had only thirty days before the certificate became null and void. We replanned our trip so that they would arrive within the allowable window. I will admit that we were tempted to schedule our trip for when it was convenient for us and not worry about the dates on the certificate — but we didn’t. We planned the trip per the regulations and the ewes arrived at their destination on the day before the last date on the certificate.
And it turns out that it was a good thing! For the first time in the many trips we have made to deliver sheep to another state, we actually got to present our papers to a state official — twice! When we crossed into Nevada, there was a big green sign that said all trucks and all vehicles carrying livestock must exit. There was no one there when we pulled up, but the checkpoint was automated. We were directed to pull onto the scale; after being weighed, we were directed to pull forward. At that point, however, there were no instructions — at all!
Rick went to the building, but there was no one there. He called a phone number as a sign directed, but there was only an automated reply with no selection that fit our circumstances. There was also a sign that directed him to cross the highway via a raised walkway for more information. There was a building there too, but it also looked deserted. We had all of our paperwork ready, but it seemed there was no one around to take a look. We headed back onto the highway and continued through Nevada.
When we reached California, we saw the same type of signage, and we pulled off once again. Unlike in Nevada, California’s station was fully manned. A very friendly officer of the state asked where our sheep originated and what their destination was. After we gave him the information, he actually asked to see the appropriate permits for the animals. Wow! He recorded bits of information from the forms and quickly got us on our way. That was the first time we’d ever had to produce paperwork on the road!
The trip back with three ram lambs was very similar: the Nevada inspection station was again unmanned, but when I entered the Utah inspection station, a friendly officer asked me to fill out a form detailing the rams’ health certificate numbers, registration numbers, and destination addresses. In addition, I needed to fill in the license of the truck doing the transport and the names of the people on board. I finished in minutes, and we were once again on our way. I must admit that I felt much more official, knowing that our very complete paperwork was recorded in some bureaucratic system — somewhere besides my own Flockfiler records. And if anyone ever wants to see it in the future, I have the info, safe and sound in the flock book where I keep each animal’s registration. We are nothing if not thorough!