Reid Folsom Updates USTR Members on Biosecurity, Animal Identification System, and Virginia’s Large Animal Emergency Response Strategy
By Jinx Fox, September, 2007
Virginia farm management consultant Reid Folsom was USTR’s guest speaker for our September meeting. Reid has a broad background in equine and other farm management and is well known as an educational speaker for clubs, agencies, and equine expos. The following is a summary of my notes from his talk and what I remember, so if something seems off, it’s probably me!
Reid covered three timely topics: biosecurity (for your own barn), the animal identification system, and the State’s plans for large animal emergency response in the event of a disaster. These three topics all relate.
Biosecurity is the new buzzword for measures aimed at containing the spread of infectious diseases (i.e., keeping horses free of disease). Many of us are familiar with the measures used this past spring during local outbreaks of an infectious equine disease. Effective biosecurity tools rely on common sense. For your own barn, these could include keeping your horses current on vaccinations, isolating any new horses for two weeks, not letting your horse touch strange horses when you are off site, and not sharing equipment, buckets, water troughs, etc with outside horses. In the event of a infectious disease outbreak, you should consider not allowing new animals onto your property, restricting the movement of your horses off site, knowing who in your neighborhood has horses and the state of their health (i.e., Are they healthy or sick? Have they been to events outside the area? Do you share a common fence line?), closing the gate so no outside trucks which could have come from an area with an active disease can pull up in the barn area (feed, farrier or vet trucks), rescheduling farrier appointments, providing disinfectant spray and foot wash, and changing clothing and shoes if isolated sick horses are on site. Interestingly, some of the biggest transporters of disease are boots and tires. Relatively simple measures such as not putting the end of the water hose into buckets when you fill them stall by stall should be part of your daily routine as well as during an infectious disease outbreak..
The animal identification system is intended to identify where animals are (i.e., the premise). It is critical for disease control. By identifying individuals and premises, we can track disease vectors. The system has also proven extremely useful in the case of emergencies or disasters.
In the case of animal identification, in Louisiana, all horses are required to be identified by State law. Following Hurricane Katrina, the owners of all but 4 horses where identified, illustrating the effectiveness of animal identification via microchips and State registries.
Premises are identified by the list of addresses and GPSed where the driveway and road intersect. The computer list contains the address and animals present, and is an effective tool to get ahead of disease progression and to locate premises in the event of an emergency. Your county extension agent can register your farm.
In Colorado, where premises were identified to the State, following a severe winter blizzard, the State was able to call all 160 registered ranches in the hardest hit area in order to find out which ranches needed assistance, and then to get help and feed to those who needed it. The ranch premises were all registered by their global position system (GPS) location with the State. So, State relief workers flew to registered premises using the premises' GPS coordinates, and were able to then toss hay to the black spots in snow (the animals) at the ranches in need. In that case, the premise registry saved many cattle.
In response to lessons learned with Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, the State of Virginia is developing the Virginia State Animal Response Team (VSART). The goals are to rescue and care for animals during an emergency. North Carolina already has such a program, with 11 trailers with cages ready to go. State teams would tie into the Federal National Incident Management System (?) and use the same protocols. Future Community Animal Response Teams (us) would be supported by the State team. The strategy recognizes the different status that horses have; we have learned that owners will not leave them. The State recognizes dogs, cats and horses as special.
In a natural disaster, it is essential ahead of time to have a plan and location for moving your horses and animals. Don't wait until the last minute until the disaster is upon us. Have papers (identification, photos, shot records, description) in hand (or glovebox), and keep gas in your pickup. An effective way to identify your horse(s) is to use a cattle marker (green or pink) and write your phone number or a number where you can be reached on the animal's neck. It will last for 30 days. If animals are left at the farm during a natural disaster, it may be best to turn them out if your land has sheltering dips or rolls. Collapsing barns can be a real hazard.
(As a side note, http://www.thehorse.com has a downloadable Emergency Planning Workbook for disaster planning on the website that is very useful...it's right on the homepage.)
We then talked about the subject of microchipping and stolen horses. Reid spent many years tracking down stolen horses in the west. Microchips (ISO chip) help. If a horse is stolen, check to make sure he didn't jump out, then call the sheriff. You should also contact the nearest horse auction across the state line. We have several: Thurmont MD and in NJ. Most horses are stolen on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday evening. The majority are sold the first Friday or Saturday night after they are taken. Reid also recommend contacting the MD State veterinarian since Thurmont is so close. Most are sold outside the auction in the parking lot, not in the sales barn. Interestingly, a large number of stolen horses are also sold in horse event parking lots. In order to prove your ownership. Reid recommends that you send good photos of the horse and a description to yourself via registered mail, then DO NOT open it.
Reid is always a wealth of information as well as an entertaining speaker. We enjoyed his presentation immensely as well as the discussions after the meeting. Thanks, Reid!