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Ask the Vet, Sallie S. Hyman VMD, DACVIM: Barn Biosecurity. Why it matters!

By now, most horse owners heave heard about the outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus that occurred at the Cutting Horse event in Ogden, UT. We are truly saddened by the loss of life. Infectious diseases are always a risk when large numbers of horses congregate for competitions. What we can take away from this tragedy are ways to implement biosecurity practices to keep our horses and farms safer from infectious disease.

What is Biosecurity?
Biosecurity consists of the principles, actions, precautions and protocols that protect the health of animals by preventing the transmission of disease through physical barriers and hygiene practices.

Why Does Biosecurity Matter to the Horse Owner?
A well planned and carried out biosecurity program will reduce your personal costs due to animal illness. On a larger scale, biosecurity promotes a stronger industry overall by preventing the shutdown of farms/events/transportation. Many reportable and foreign animal diseases have been stopped from becoming a larger problem by farm owners recognizing that something was not right, implementing good biosecurity, and seeking veterinary advice.

How Do I Establish a Biosecurity Program?

A lot of biosecurity is really just good, common sense practices:

  1. Avoid traveling with horses that suspect have an infectious disease
  2. Avoid traveling with horses that have been exposed to infectious disease (even if they do not seem ill)
  3. In the event of an outbreak, quarantine ALL horses on the premises until the horses are cleared by a veterinarian
Routine practices are critical:
  1. Quarantine all new horses for 2-3 weeks before co-mingling them with other horses
  2. Vaccinate all horses based on the recommendations of your local vet
  3. Practice good hygiene when handling horses - washing hands between handling sick and well horses, for instance
  4. Control pests such as rodents, flies and stray animals

It takes time and effort to keep up with a biosecurity program, but the benefits are substantial. Your farm and your horses will be healthier and safer for all your hard work.

Registered 2011 Equestrian Collections; Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA 

Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.  In particular, all horse owners should seek advice  and treatment from a licensed veterinarian for their horses' medical care.  


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