Category Archives: Equine health

Practical Biosecurity Tips to Protect Your Horses – The Horse

Learn equine biosecurity basics for the farm, horse show, and breeding shed to protect your horses from infectious diseases.
— Read on thehorse.com/features/practical-biosecurity-tips-to-protect-your-horse/

10 Common Horse Emergencies & the Skills You Need to Help – Horse Side Vet Guide

#1 Abdominal Pain, Colic Signs Perform Whole Horse Exam™ (WHE) Assess Color of Mucous Membranes Assess Demeanor or Attitude Assess Gut or Intestinal Sounds Assess Manure Assess Capillary Refill Time (CRT) by examining Gums Give Intramuscular (IM) Injection Give Oral Medication Sand Sediment Test…
— Read on horsesidevetguide.com/Common+Horse+Emergencies+and+the+Skills+You+Need+to+Help

Extra Care for Horses in Cold Weather

Horses Require Extra Attention when Temperatures Plummet

With freezing temperatures comes the need for extra care and attention for horses and other equids.

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Horses Require Extra Attention When Temperatures Plummet
The next few days will bring freezing weather to many parts of the country, and with that comes the need for extra care and attention for horses, donkeys, ponies, mules, and any other outdoor animals.As the temperatures decrease, a horse’s feed requirements increase. Allowing horses free choice to good quality forage (hay) is the surest way to ensure that they consume enough energy, and the process of digesting forage will actually produce heat. Horses will typically consume 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in forage each day; that would be 25 pounds per day for a 1,000 pound horse. Winter pasture alone will not provide enough forage to sustain a horse and, therefore, must be supplemented with hay and/or grain.

The growing season some parts of the nation had last year produced overly stemmy or fibrous hay with a lower digestibility. As a result, making certain that horses are supplemented with grain when fed lower quality hay will help them maintain body weight and condition, a key factor in withstanding cold temperatures.

Constant access to clean, fresh water at 35 to 50°F is an absolute necessity to keeping horses healthy. This can be achieved via heated tanks or buckets, or by filling a tank, letting it freeze, cutting an access hole in the frozen surface, and then always filling the tank to below the level of the hole from that point on. This provides a self-insulating function and will typically keep the water below from freezing. Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to check tanks frequently to ensure your horse’s water remains free of ice.

Additional ways to keep horses comfortable in cold weather include making sure they have access to shelter. A well-bedded, three-sided shed facing south or east will typically provide adequate protection from wind and snow, as can appropriate bluffs or treed areas.

When the temperatures get colder, mature horses will not typically move around much in an effort to conserve energy. Making an attempt to keep hay, shelter, and water fairly close together can limit the energy expenditure required, thus conserving body condition.

And, finally, keeping horses at a body condition score of 5 or 6 (on a 9-point scale) will help prevent surprises when horses shed their winter hair in the spring, and improve conception rates for those choosing to breed.

Don’t Bury an Animal with Botulism

The facts of life and death – correct carcass disposal an essential part of biosecurity plans

By Dr Sarah-Jane Wilson, Livestock Biosecurity Network Northern Regional Manager

Death, unfortunately, is one of the most inescapable elements of life and one that, when it occurs within the livestock production chain, raises a litany of biosecurity issues.

Animal carcasses can pose a serious risk to both human and animal health, can jeopardise biosecurity and impose a range of environmental impacts if not properly disposed of.  These risks can include polluting water courses, spreading disease and interfering with community amenity.

The old practice of simply leaving a carcass anywhere in the paddock to rot simply does not stack up in a modern livestock industry where the implications of incorrect carcass management are better understood.

In fact, depending on where you live, there may be local, state or national regulatory requirements that relate to your on-farm waste management procedures and I encourage you to make yourself familiar with these obligations.

We strongly recommend carcass disposal is integrated into your on-farm biosecurity plan and that you consider the methods available to dispose of animal carcasses or animal waste products including hide, gut or bones after home slaughter or wool that is not suitable for baling.  Another important consideration is the equipment you may need to assist in this disposal.

If you live on a small farm, your best alternative may be to engage a specialist disposal service as opposed to burial or on-site burning.  Again, there may be some regulatory requirements for producers in higher density areas and I encourage you to seek the advice of your local council or departmental staff to ensure you adhere to any applicable guidelines. Generally speaking burial is often the most practical and preferred method of disposal on a small farm if you do not have access to a disposal service.

For all producers, your geographic location and common endemic diseases should be taken into consideration. For example, if you live in a botulism affected area, burning is the recommended and preferred method.  Botulism spores can live in the soil for many years, so simply burying the carcass will not suffice.

If you have multiple sudden deaths in your herd or flock, and/or do not know the cause of death, then it is best practice to investigate. Your local veterinarian or animal health/biosecurity officer may be able to provide further information. If you suspect an emergency or unusual disease, you should report this as soon as possible to your local animal health authority.

For more information, the NSW Environmental Protection Agency and the Tasmanian Environmental Protection Agency provide some good advice, as do most of the other applicable state departments, on how to effectively and responsibly dispose of the livestock carcasses on your property.

Top tips

Choosing a site (Source: NSW EPA)

If the carcasses must be disposed of on-site, it is preferable to have:

  • A burial area at least 100m away from houses or watercourses
  • The pit base at least 1m above the level of the watertable
  • Heavy soil of low permeability and good stability
  • Good access to the site for earthmoving machinery and stock transport unless the stock are to be walked in for slaughter.

Other pit considerations (Source: Tas EPA)

  • Sawdust can be added to the bottom of pits to reduce risk of leachate generation
  • It is not recommended that lime be added to pits unless there is a biosecurity reason for doing so as this will reduce the decomposition rate of the carcasses
  • Surface drainage should be directed away from the pit location by setting up diversion drains up slope of the pit location
  • When full, the pit must be covered with a minimum of 1m soil. The soil should be mounded over the pit to prevent rain collecting and it should be remembered the pit cover will subside as the carcasses break down.

If you need to burn (Source: NSW EPA)

  • To reduce swelling during decomposition, the abdomens and paunches of all the carcasses should be opened to allow gases to escape.
  • The carcasses should be sprayed with sump oil if immediate burial or burning is impractical.
  • They should be heaped in a secluded spot away from watercourses and sump oil should be spread liberally over the heap. The oil discourages flies and scavenger and the heap can then be burned later.

Planning ahead for what to do with a carcass or, multiple carcasses in the event of a natural disaster, can substantially reduce the stress of the moment. It can also make a dramatic contribution to the biosecurity soundness of your property and our greater livestock industries.

Here at LBN we’ve designed a small template to assist producers in thinking through the options that best work for them.  This can be found at: http://www.lbn.org.au/farm-biosecurity-tools/on-farm-biosecurity-planning-tools/.

  • Dr Sarah-Jane Wilson is the Livestock Biosecurity Network’s regional officer for Northern Australia. She can be contacted or 0437 725 877 or email sjwilson@lbn.org.au.

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