Can I Import Wool? Deb Robson Explains

For the curious reader, here are detailed notes, tables, and a bibliography on the processes involved in importing wool.

Deborah Robson Aug 21, 2023 - 12 min read

Can I Import Wool? Deb Robson Explains Primary Image

Did you know that Icelandic sheep like to forge their own path? Photos by Kate Larson.

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.

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) Akabane 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) Scrapie

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 Leptospirosis 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

Soay sheep are associated with St. Kilda, a set of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean west of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Some Soay have been transferred to other locations in the British Isles and to North America. Photo by Duncan McNab on Unsplash


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.

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.

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

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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.

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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).

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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 Virology153 (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).

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

To read Deb's companion article, check out the Summer 2019 issue of Spin Off.

Also, remember that if you are an active subscriber to Spin Off magazine, you have unlimited access to previous issues, including Summer 2019. See our help center for the step-by-step process on how to access them.

Deborah Robson is the fiber author of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook and The Field Guide to Fleece, and is a former editor of Spin Off. The information here is excerpted from research for some of her Fiber Guidebooks. Her website is and find her on Instagram @independentstitch.

Originally published May 21, 2019; updated August 21, 2023.