Top 10 Bio-security Tips

In this article, you’ll find our veterinarians’ Top 10 Bio-security tips for helping to keep contagious diseases out of your barn and away from your horse!

  1. Plan: Work with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive bio-security plan for your farm. The goal is reduce the likelihood of disease spread before there is a problem.
    • Identify different populations present on farm and assess exposure and susceptibility level of each group. Contact between horses with high exposure rates (e.g.., those traveling to shows) should be limited as much as possible with those with high susceptibility level (e.g., mares and foals).
    • Have a protocol in place for new horse arrivals on the farm. It is important to know vaccination history on all new arrivals. For the first two weeks, isolate new arrivals or at a minimum reduce contact with existing population as much as possible. Closely monitor the new arrival for signs of infectious disease during this time period.
  2. Vaccinate – While vaccination is one of the most important things you can do to reduce infectious disease spread, it does not entirely mitigate the risk and is only part of a comprehensive plan. See our current fall vaccination recommendations.
  3. Practice Good Hygiene: Your hands and shoes can easily carry infectious disease agents from horse to horse or farm to farm.
    • Wash your hands thoroughly or use alcohol hand sanitizer when arriving at the farm or when handling different populations of horses.
    • After having visited another farm or show grounds, clean and disinfect your shoes. Footbaths may also be used at entrances to susceptible or potentially sick horses.
  4. Limit Contact: Horses should be treated as individuals as much as possible.
    • Keep separate tools for each horse (bits, grooming supplies, buckets, etc.).
    • For supplies that must be shared, clean and disinfect items between horses.
    • When watering horses, hold end of hose above water bucket level and wipe down end of hose with disinfectant prior to watering.
    • Disinfect stall walls and buckets in between different stall occupants.
    • If possible, do not use the same paddock to turnout different groups of horses.
    • Do not use the same equipment (e.g., wheelbarrow) for feeding and stall cleaning.
  5. Clean & Disinfect: Organic matter (dirt and manure) lower the effectiveness of disinfectants, so it is important to clean the item first.
    • Scrub item with a brush, wash with soap, and rinse with water.
    • Following instructions on disinfectant, apply to item and allow to dry.
  6. Travel Safely: While travel inherently increases your horse’s exposure to disease-causing agents, certain steps can be taken to keep the risk as low as possible.
    • Disinfect the trailer between different loads of horses.
    • Spray down show ground stall walls with disinfectant prior to unloading.
    • Do not allow nose-to-nose contact with other horses at show and ask that others wash or sanitize their hands prior to handling your horse.
    • Do not graze your horse on grass that has been grazed by other horses.
  7. Monitor: Regularly monitoring your horse’s vital signs will help you to recognize a problem as soon as it occurs.
    • Take temperatures twice daily on all horses. Normal rectal temperatures for horses is 99-101.5°F.
    • Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if >101.5°F.
    • Watch for any changes in appetite, manure consistency, and overall demeanor.
  8. Recognize: If you notice fever, nasal discharge, coughing, diarrhea, depression, or inappetence, isolate the horse and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
  9. Isolate: Horses with potentially infectious diseases should be kept as separate as possible.
    • Ideally, keep horse in a separate barn, but if not possible, place horse in stall where horse and human traffic will be minimized.
    • Feed horse and clean stall last and disinfect equipment after use.
    • Your veterinarian can advise you on what personal protective equipment should be used. At the very minimum, wear gloves and wash hands after handling and disinfect shoes.
  10. Pest Control: Insects, birds, rodents, and other pests can spread disease causing agents to your horses.
    • Eliminate standing water.
    • Store feed in rodent-proof containers.
    • Empty and clean water troughs in paddocks at least weekly.

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