Simple, But Critical, Management Practices Are Necessary for Optimal Herd Health
RELEASE: August 25, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Rebecca Pitcher
Managing one horse can be challenging enough, but when there is a whole barn full of horses—each with its own individual needs—keeping schedules straight and preventing disease outbreaks can become a daunting task. Whether it’s a breeding facility, a bustling show barn, or simply a pasture full of backyard companions, horse owners and managers have a responsibility to stay current on the necessary management practices to keep their herd healthy.
Getting every animal on a routine schedule is imperative, particularly while managing a herd. This goes beyond daily feedings, stall cleanings, turnout and workout schedules. Rather, it means setting up a parasite protection program, effective fly control and providing regular vaccinations and veterinary care. Also, with recent disease outbreaks posing a threat to barns around the country, it’s becoming increasingly crucial for horse and barn owners, and managers, to practice basic barn hygiene, such as sanitizing and disinfecting stalls and equipment—particularly those items that may be utilized from horse-to-horse within a barn.
“When managing multiple horses, providing the right care to help prevent the onset or spread of disease is very easy, but is also commonly neglected in the hustle of people’s daily lives,” said Dr. Robert Holland, DVM, PhD, Senior Veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health. “With the large number of communicable diseases, such as equine herpes virus type 1 (EHV-1), barn hygiene, as well as proper deworming, vaccinations and fly control should be in the forefront of every horse owner’s mind.”
While at home or on the road, horse owners should take precautions in the overall hygiene of the facility and the equipment that comes in contact with their animals. Whenever possible, avoid sharing water and feed buckets, lips chains, halters or other items that might touch a horse’s mouth, nose or ears. If the items have to be shared, be sure to follow proper sanitation and disinfection techniques first. There are a number of commercially available disinfectants, such as Roccal®-D Plus, that are effective for killing bacteria. Veterinarians also recommend that every barn offer a shallow basin full of properly mixed disinfectant for people to wash their shoes before entering and leaving a facility.
“When it comes to disease prevention, people cannot be too careful—especially in large facilities,” said Dr. Holland. “Disinfecting equipment and setting up basins is not foolproof for stopping disease from entering a facility, but it’s a step in the right direction. Remember also to isolate a horse from the herd as soon as they show signs of being unwell.”
To help promote herd health, Pfizer Animal Health offers a free Biosecurity Barn Poster to barn managers. E-mail your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org
along with your request. The posters are available one per customer, while supplies last. To ensure delivery, please do not provide PO boxes.
A carefully designed vaccination program, coordinated with a veterinarian, is also one of the best means of helping ensure the herd is getting the proper protection throughout the whole year. There are a number of vaccines on the market to help prevent various diseases, from equine encephalitis to rabies and the West Nile Virus. For example, Rhinomune® is a modified live virus vaccine that aids in preventing respiratory disease caused by EHV-1. While many vaccinations are required for all horses, others are optional depending on the horse’s program. Consulting a veterinarian on a schedule that works best for the barn, as well as each horse’s individual need is recommended.
Other standard precautionary steps to take include putting the entire barn on a consistent deworming and fly control program. Parasite protection, while it may seem basic, is critical to maintaining a healt