Understanding & Practicing Biosecurity on Horse Farms

Biosecurity is a big word that many livestock owners don’t fully understand. Let’s break it down: Bio means

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Biosecurity is a big word that many livestock owners don’t fully understand. Let’s break it down: Bio means life; biology is the study of life; and biosecurity is a term that literally means securing life. In the agricultural context we often hear government officials talk about biosecurity with the U.S. food supply (i.e., protecting U.S. citizens by inspecting food production facilities and imported food products). As horse owners, we also need to be aware of disease threats and do our part to not only prevent disease from infecting our horse herds but also to prevent it from spreading to others.

There are a few simple things that all horse owners can do to improve biosecurity on and off the farm.

On & Around the Farm:

  • Designate a pair of boots to wear only on your farm and with your animals. Likewise, designate a pair of boots to wear when you visit others’ farms and/or sale facilities;
  • Change clothing after handling your animals, and change clothing after handling others’ animals;
  • Limit/eliminate standing water around the farm;
  • Maintain clean water tubs;
  • Separate horses for feeding and assign designated feed buckets;
  • At shows, trail rides, and other equine events, do not allow your horse to drink from a "public water tub" or share buckets and equipment with others;
  • Assign each horse his/her own halter, lead rope, grooming equipment, and tack;
  • Thoroughly wash and disinfect items (grooming tools, bits, and other equipment) before and after using on or for an unassigned horse–note leather cannot be sanitized, but cleaning and allowing to sit in the sun can be helpful;
  • If borrowing equipment from other farms thoroughly wash and disinfect before using (this even applies to tractors, trailers, and other farm equipment);
  • Disinfect your equipment and vehicles prior to entering the barn and pasture areas if they have been offsite or used around sick animals;
  • Work with your veterinarian to develop and administer a herd health protocol that includes at least regular Coggins testing and a vaccination schedule and deworming strategy; and
  • Horses that travel should follow the new horse isolation/quarantine procedures (below) upon every return before being reintroduced to the herd

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