Tullis Matson: We face a greater risk than ever *H&H VIP*

Opinion

The bio-security risk in the UK is greater than ever. The equine industry is lucky when it comes to freedom of movement of animals compared to other agricultural industries. The transport of livestock such as cattle and sheep is much more restricted. However, this freedom of movement comes at a cost and means we have to be extra mindful of bio-security.

I firmly believe bio-security is one of our biggest challenges and presents a real risk to the equine industry as we know it. It’s the one thing that could shut down my business straight away — Stallion AI Services is a quarantine centre, meaning we are licensed by Defra to export semen around the world. But bio-security is something all horse owners should be aware of.

The UK currently has a good health status and it’s important we maintain this, especially moving towards Brexit. It is an advantage when negotiating exports with other countries. But more and more diseases are already in existence or are making their way to the UK, such as equine flu and equine viral arteritis (EVA) as well as more exotic diseases, too.

EVA is more common in Europe, but it has now broken out here and threatens to have devastating consequences on our breeding industry. The virus can cause mares to abort and, once a stallion carries it in their semen, they should no longer be used as a breeding stallion.

Simple measures

Everyone with horses must become more bio-conscious and particularly careful about transporting horses, whether that’s to abroad for international competition or to a local show up the road. Be aware of the horses yours is coming into contact with or is stabled next to. Just stroking a horse in the stables then patting another can spread disease.

However, there are simple measures everybody can take. How many people know their horse’s average temperature and how many take it regularly? One of the first signs of a virus can be a change in temperature and it’s easy to check. We take the temperature of every horse on our yard three times per week.

Act straight away on your instincts if you notice a change. Where possible, isolate any horse with a temperature or a snotty nose and monitor them. These things can be quite easily contained if caught early.

Yard owners can take small measures, too. Provide hand sanitizer and encourage those on your yard to use it between horses. Where possible, avoid sharing tack and, if using one saddle on multiple horses, consider changing the numnah or pad for each. Some basic husbandry on the yard can make a big difference.

Ref Horse & Hound; 11 July 2019