Can I Import Wool? Deb Robson Explains

In her article “Sheep on the Move” in Spin Off Summer 2019, Deb Robson explains why moving sheep around the world is more complicated than you might think. Deb’s article is thorough and well documented, and a few details didn’t fit in the print edition. For the curious reader, here are detailed notes, tables, and a bibliography on how to import wool.

import wool

Want your own Valais Blacknose cutie? Getting one might be more complicated than you think. Photo by Getty Images/Sandra Dombrovsky

Diseases and pests to avoid

Here’s a laundry list of bugs we don’t want to move around the world. Specific testing depends on what countries the animals or germ plasm are coming from and going to. Deformities, abortion, and early mortality are common effects, with simple low productivity at the less obvious end of the spectrum. Some diseases can be transferred to humans. In a few cases, sheep are not the primary species affected but can be carriers.

Insect-borne viruses

Aino (Shuni orthobunyavirus)
Bluetongue virus (BTV)
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD)
Schmallenberg virus (SBV)

Other viruses

Caprine arthritis and encephalitis
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)
Sheep pox and goat pox
Maedi-visna (Ovine Progressive Pneumonia, OPP)
Rift Valley Fever
Rinderpest—testing not currently required because it has been declared to be eradicated, although samples are thought to still exist

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion-caused diseases

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

Bacterial diseases

Brucellosis—Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis, Brucella ovis
Campylobacter fetus

Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia—Mycoplasma capricolum subsp. capripneumoniae
Johne’s disease—Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosis
Tuberculosis—Mycobacterium bovis

Parasite-borne diseases

Surra—caused by Trypanosoma evansi
Sheep scabies or sheep scab—caused by five kinds of mites
Psorogates ovis
Sheep ticks


Prion: a protein in an abnormal (misfolded) form that causes neurodegenerative diseases; not all prions cause illness

Bacteria: microscopic living organisms, usually single-celled; they can be beneficial or cause disease; bacterial illnesses can be treated with antibiotics

Virus: microorganism, smaller than a bacterium, that can only reproduce within living cells; antiviral medications and vaccines may affect them, although antibiotics are not useful in counteracting viral diseases

USDA Animal Product Manual Tables

The following three tables provided by the United States Government give criteria for individuals or companies who want to import wool.

import wool

import wool

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International Restrictions to Import Wool Sheep to the United States

(Strict criteria govern cross-border shipments of all types.)

Live sheep, embryos, and semen

Australia, New Zealand

Live sheep and semen only


Semen only

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Bibliography (full)

Abbott, Elizabeth. The Icelandic Fleece: A Fibre for All Reasons. Verona, Ontario: Elizabeth and Ron Abbott, 2001.

Alderson, Lawrence. “Foot-and-mouth Disease in the United Kingdom 2001: Its Cause, Course, Control and Consequences.” (2001). 2001 FMD 2001 outbreak.pdf (accessed April 13, 2012; not currently retrievable).

Ascendis Biosciences (South Africa). “Managing Mites in Livestock.” (2017). (accessed November 25, 2018).

Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America. “BFLs in North America.” (accessed November 27, 2018).

Briggs, Susan. “Stefania—The Queen of Icelandic Sheep.” (2008): (accessed December 7, 2018).

Brown, David. “Rinderpest, or ‘Cattle Plague,’ Becomes Only Second Disease to Be Eradicated.” Washington Post, 2011. (accessed November 26, 2018).

Columbus, Courtney. “Asian Ticks (Mysteriously) Turned Up on a New Jersey Sheep.” (2018). (accessed November 25, 2018).

Fridriksdottir, V., E. Gunnarsson, S. Sigurdarson, and K. B. Gudmundsdottir. “Paratuberculosis in Iceland: Epidemiology and Control Measures, Past and Present.” Veterinary Microbiology 77, no. 3-4 (2000): 263–67.

Government of Western Australia. “Ovine Campylobacteriosis (Formerly Ovine Vibriosis).” (2018): (accessed November 25, 2018).

Harman, Alan. “Valais Blacknose Coming to the U.S.: Racing the Kiwis to Establish New Markets.” Countryside Daily (2018): (accessed December 7, 2018).

Hunter, Deborah Y. “History of Karakul Imports to North America.” 1990, updated September 2016. Personal communication.

___. “Karakul Sheep.” The Livestock Conservancy News (2015): 6–7, 9.

Hunter, Nora. “Scrapie—Uncertainties, Biology and Molecular Approaches.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1772 (2007): 619–28.

Iowa State University, Center for Food Security and Public Health. “Aino Disease.” (2018). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Akabane Disease.” (2018) (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Bluetongue.” (2015): Accessed November 22, 2018. (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Brucellosis: Brucella abortus.” (2018). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Brucellosis: Brucella melitensis.” (2018). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis.” (2007). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia.” (2015). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Diseases Caused by the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serogroup.” (2016). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Fast Facts: Bluetongue.” (2011). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Fast Facts: Bovine Tuberculosis (TB).” (2006). (accessed November 26, 2018).

___. “Fast Facts: Leptospirosis.” (2013). (accessed November 25, 2018).

___. “Maedi-Visna.” (2007). (accessed November 25, 2018).

___. “Ovine Epididymitis: Brucella ovis.” (2018). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Rinderpest.” (2016). (accessed November 25, 2018).

___. “Scrapie.” (2016). (accessed November 22, 2018).

___. “Sheep Pox and Goat Pox.” (2017). (accessed November 25, 2018).

___. “Sheep Scab.” (2009). (accessed November 25, 2018).

___. “Surra.” (2015). (accessed November 25, 2018).

Karakul Shepherds Alliance. (accessed December 8, 2018).

Kelso, Joel K., and George J. Milne. “A Spatial Simulation Model for the Dispersal of the Bluetongue Vector Culicoides brevitarsis in Australia.” PLoS One 9, no. 8 (2014): e104646.

Klein, Loretta (Letty). “Dawley History.” (2000). (accessed November 27, 2018).

Knight-Jones, T. J. D., and J. Rushton. “The Economic Impacts of Foot and Mouth Disease–What Are They, How Big Watson, W. A. “The Import and Export of Sheep and Goats.” British Veterinary Journal 140, no. 1 (1984): 1–21.

Marrs, Gevan. “The Unique History of Soay Sheep–A Relic Population.” (2006): (accessed December 7, 2018). “Awassi Sheep Now Available in the U.S.” (2013): (accessed December 8, 2018).

Miller, Kathie. “Artificial Insemination in Soay Sheep: A Historic Project.” (n.d.): (accessed December 8, 2018).

Pétursson, Gudmundur. “Experience with Visna Virus in Iceland.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 724, no. 1 (1994): 43–49.

Scotland Now. “Scots Farmer Installs CCTV and Brings in Guard Dogs to Protect £55,000 Worth of Rare Sheep.” Scotland Now, 2014. (accessed December 7, 2018).

Scott, Phil. “Schmallenberg Virus (SBV).” (2012) (accessed November 23, 2018).

___. “Sheep Scab.” (2017). (accessed November 25, 2018).

Skwarecki, Beth. “It Takes a Prion to Remember.” Scientific American 310, no. 5 (2014): 23–23.

United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). “Animal Health Status of Regions.” (2018). (accessed December 5, 2018).

___. Animal Product Manual. [Washington, D.C.]: U. S. Department of Agriculture, 2014. (accessed December 6, 2018).

___. “Foot-and-Mouth Disease.” (2013). (accessed November 24, 2018).

___. “Information for Travelers Who Visit Farms or Come into Contact with Animals in Other Countries.” (2018): (accessed December 7, 2018).

___. “Johne’s Disease.” (2017). (accessed November 25, 2018).

___. “Johne’s Disease in Sheep.” (2009). (accessed November 25, 2018).

United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Rift Valley Fever.” (2016). (accessed November 24, 2018).

Valais Blacknose Sheep Society USA. “The Science and Art of Upgrading: Foundations.” (2018): (accessed December 8, 2018).

van Keulen, L. J. M., M. E. W. Vromans, C. H. Dolstra, A. Bossers, and F. G. van Zijderveld. “Pathogenesis of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in Sheep.” Archives of Virology 153 (2008): 45–453.

Watson, W. A. “The Import and Export of Sheep and Goats.” British Veterinary Journal 140, no. 1 (1984): 1–21.

Weaver, Sue. “Soay Sheep.” (2009): (accessed December 7, 2018).

“What is a Prion?” Scientific American (1999): (accessed November 26, 2018).

Weir, R. P. “Aino Virus.” Berrimah Agricultural Research Center, (accessed November 22, 2018).

—Deb Robson

Featured Image: To import wool on the hoof, you’ll either need to bring sheep or embryos from specific countries. In the United States, manu shepherds are hoping to breed Valais Blacknose by importing semen. Photo by Photo by Getty Images/maartz26

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