National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity User Guide for the Equine Sector
Section 8: Farm and facility management
Goal: Promote horse health by providing a clean, well-maintained, low stress, and safe environment that minimizes biosecurity risks.
Farm and facility management includes, but is not limited to, any structures that may house or shelter horses, paddocks, pastures, equipment, bedding, feed and manure storage areas, as well as riding arenas, race tracks and show areas. The implementation of proactive biosecurity in all aspects of the farm and facility management is important to the health and well-being of horses.
8.1 Feed, water, and bedding
Goal: Obtain good quality feed, water, and bedding and protect them from contamination by manure, water, pests, and wildlife.
Description: Good quality feed, water, and bedding are vital to horse health. The source, processing, transport and storage of feed, water and bedding are important considerations to minimize exposure to pathogens.
Feed: The main cause of sickness from feed is not transmission of infectious disease but moulds causing digestive problems and toxemia; these are not spread from horse to horse. However, feed can become contaminated by other pathogens and cause sickness in horses.
- for optimum health, determine and discuss the nutritional (feed) requirements for your horse(s) with a horse nutritionist or your veterinarian;
- obtain and provide high quality feed from a known source, either a commercial feed mill with a quality assurance program or from a supplier that has protocols to ensure raw materials are harvested, stored, and transported to lessen the chance of contamination;
- collect and store a representative sample of each feed shipment for testing and analysis;
- store concentrates and roughage in a manner that prevents contamination (by water, pests, wildlife, urine and manure) or spoilage. Storing feed in a separate building from the horses can minimize rodent activity in and around horses;
- dispose of feed that is contaminated or substandard quality;
- use feed in a manner which rotates oldest to newest; and
- entirely empty your feed storage containers between each batch.
WaterFootnote 20: While there are a few options for sourcing water (private well, public water supply, rivers, lakes and ponds), some are more variable in their quality and may pose a risk of disease to your animals. Water should be tested annually and where necessary (for example, change in water colour or odour). Treatment of water (for example, UV filtration) may be required to ensure quality and minimize the risk of contamination.
Water quality and palatability are affected by temperature, pH salinity, pathogens (for example, coliforms and blue green algae), minerals, and chemicals. Surface water sources (for example, ponds and creeks) have more variability in quality and increased opportunity for contamination than wells and public/municipal water supplies. Diseases such as leptospirosis, giardiasis, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) and botulism may be a higher risk when using surface water sources.
The benefits of public water suppliers are that they are responsible for ensuring the quality of commercial water. Although of less concern than shallow wells, ponds and streams, it is important to recognize publicly supplied water may be contaminated. Contamination may occur by inappropriate treatment, poorly maintained distribution system to the facility, or poorly maintained water distribution system at the facility. Routinely clean, disinfect and flush the water distribution system. This includes buckets, troughs and automatic waterer systems.
Note: The use and access of surface water sources by livestock is often regulated by acts and regulations to protect ground and surface water quality and environmental habitat. Horse owners and custodians are reminded to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation.
- communal (shared) water sources can be a source of transmission of pathogens. Where horses are comingling at a temporary location (event, show), provide water to all horses individually, preventing the sharing of water buckets or the use of common water troughs;
- identify the source of the water and evaluate for quality and palatability;
- do not submerge common use water hoses into water buckets;
- where possible, prevent access to natural surface water sources; and
- test water quality at least annually to ensure it meets standards for livestock consumption.Footnote 21 Consider testing surface water sources and shallow wells:
- following periods of heavy rain and runoff if there are concerns over contamination from manure or other contaminants;
- if there is a change in the taste, colour or odour of the water; and
- if there is widespread unexplained sickness in the herd.
Ideally, horses should have their own water buckets; they should not be shared between risk and peer groups (for example, new horses and horses with suspected sickness).
Bedding: Used bedding and new bedding (if not properly sourced, transported and stored) can be a source of pathogens.
- store fresh bedding in a manner that prevents contamination by manure, water, pests and wildlife;
- provide a consistent source of dry absorbable bedding which is removed and replaced when soiled and on a regular schedule with a stall cleaning routine;
- remove bedding and clean and disinfect stalls prior to placing a different horse in the stall. It is particularly important to ensure that the stall has been disinfected if it was occupied by a sick horse; and
- ensure the disinfectant selected and protocol used is appropriate based on the type of walls and flooring (for example, wood, concrete). Refer to Annex 14 for additional information on Disinfectants and Annex 15 for additional information on cleaning and disinfection procedures.
8.2 Property and pest management
Goal: Maintain the property to provide a healthy and safe environment for horses. Minimize pest and parasite populations; manage pet activities, and exposure to wildlife through an integrated pest management and wildlife control plan.
Description: Properly storing equipment, feed and manure, as well as keeping the facility and surrounding area free of debris is important for the health and safety of horses. Unobstructed areas allow for cleaning and minimize the potential risk of injury to horses. It is also an important element of pest and wildlife control.
Pests and wildlife are opportunistic. Discarded waste, spilled feed or objects present opportunities for a meal or establishing a home. Pests, domestic pets, feral animals, livestock, parasites, and wildlife can cause or transmit disease and cause physical irritation and injury to horses. Insects (particularly flies, mosquitoes and gnats) and rodents are the most common pests that must be managed. It is important to initiate primary methods of pest and wildlife control by reducing sources of habitat and attractants prior to initiating secondary measures such as insecticides and pesticides.
- initiate primary methods of pest control by reducing sources and habitat for insects and pests;
- keep vegetation mowed short;
- compost or contain manure;
- remove hiding and nesting areas for pests and wildlife;
- minimize pooling water on the site by grading, adding fill and controlling water runoff; and
- eliminate other insect breeding sites by removing objects such as tires, buckets, pots and debris where stagnant water can accumulate, keep roof gutters and water catchment free of debris.
- install fans in barns to reduce moisture in barns and bedding where insects can breed and to limit entry of flying insects;
- feed is an attractant for pets, pests, wildlife and other domestic animals. Securely store feed, promptly clean up feed spills and properly store garbage;
- as necessary, treat horses and/or the premises with repellents and insecticides on a seasonal basis and according to manufacturer's recommendations. Consult a pest specialist (exterminator) if required when managing significant infestations;
- use a variety of fly and insect traps to help manage populations around barns and pastures;
- install live traps for rodents and monitor their activity. Use rodent bait stations and traps only after careful consideration and with caution as they pose a threat to pets, wildlife and children;
- screen windows and doors and seal openings to barns and facilities;
- move horses inside during high risk times (for example, dusk to dawn) during the vector season;
- minimize contacts with pets, other livestock and wildlife, which can act as potential disease vectors; and
- keep horses away from farm equipment storage areas.
Additional information on pest management:
Mosquito and Fly Prevention and Control on Manitoba Farms: Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, Soils and Crops Branch
Insect Pests: Penn State Extension
Fly Control Around Horses: University of Minnesota Extension
Bats and birds
|While bats and some bird species (swallows and purple martins) consume large volumes of insects, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support encouraging their presence around horse properties to control flies, mosquitoes and gnats.|
(Muscidifurax raptor, Muscidifurax raptorellus & Muscidifurax zaraptor)
|Small, nocturnal, non-stinging wasps that lay eggs in fly pupae. The developing wasps kill the fly pupae. Wasps need to be released early in the spring and every 2 to 4 weeks until frost. Targeting pupae rather than adult flies can significantly reduce fly populations by decreasing opportunities by adult flies to lay eggs. Can be used to control many species of flies. Wasps (parasitized fly pupae in shavings) can be purchased and shipped from Canadian companies.|
|Traps||A variety of traps target adult flies, some of which have fly attractants or baits. Some options include sticky fly tape, baited containers, and horse fly traps. Fly traps are often only effective against certain species of flies so different types of traps need to be used. Traps need to be properly placed, monitored and replaced frequently.|
Many formulations and products are available; meant to repel rather than kill insects. Products are variable in their effectiveness and duration of action.
Chemicals that primarily target and kill adult flies. Products that are formulated for external application include (among others) sprays, pour-on, spot-on, wipes, and powders. Some products can be used as environmental sprays/barn sprays: Common ingredients include:
Insecticides are regulated by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada. To be registered, products must be proven to be effective, and pose minimal risk to human health and the environment. Health Canada maintains a searchable database of products: Pesticide Label Search – Health Canada
Care must be taken with the use and storage of all insecticides and repellents. Follow all label directions. Products should not be applied to broken skin, or around nose, mouth and eyes.
Pyrethrins and pyrethroids are highly toxic to cats, while organophosphates and carbamates can be toxic to animals and people.
8.3 Pasture management
Goal: Manage pastures to minimize the accumulation and spread of pathogens and poisonous plants.
Description: Overstocking on pastures can contribute to overgrazing, dusty pasture conditions and the accumulation of pathogens which can affect horse health. Appropriate pasture management plays a significant role in managing horse parasites-such as roundworms and tapeworms-and can help reduce the use of horse wormers and insecticides. (Refer to Annex 11 for additional information on parasite management)
- manage pastures to prevent overstocking by adjusting stocking rates to pasture conditions;
- require all horses to participate in a parasite control program;
- rotate pastures to minimize overgrazing and to assist in reducing parasite burdens. If rotation is not possible, consider an all-weather paddock for horses to allow pasture grass to regrow, protect saturated ground and manage the amount of green grass the horses are eating;
- rotate horses and other non-susceptible livestockFootnote 22 that consume about the same amount in the same pasture during the height of parasite exposure (summer months);
- only spread thoroughly composted manure on fields used for grazing, as the heat generated during composting will inactivate eggs and larvae present in the manure;
- manage the number of horses in a pasture to ensure there is even grazing of young leafy forage to minimize the development of older, taller, less desirable mature plants (roughs);Footnote 23
- provide hay when needed to keep the forage at a reasonable height (4+ inches);
- when introducing horses to pastures do it gradually and observe horses regularly;
- use cautionFootnote 24 when dragging or harrowing pastures, as this practice exposes and spreads eggs and larvae. Dragging or harrowing should only be considered during the heat of the summer when the exposed eggs and larvae will die more quickly.
- horses should be kept off the pasture post dragging or harrowing for a least a week to allow the parasite eggs and larvae to die.
- dragging or harrowing is discouraged in the cooler temperatures such as the fall. Parasites are able to survive for a longer period of time in cooler temperatures.
Additional information on pasture management:
Managing Pastures to Feed your Horse, North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service
Pasture Management for small strongyle control. Dr. Mary Rossano et al; University of Kentucky
Pasture Management: University of Minnesota Extension
8.4 Interior and perimeter fencing
Goal: Interior and perimeter fencing is used to safely contain horses and facilitate management of horses on the property.
Description: Fencing serves a number of purposes essential to maintaining the health and welfare of horses including: safe containment, separation of horses of different health status and age, as well as protection from predators and identification of property boundaries. Selecting the appropriate fencing materials and design should be based on the needs, intended use, durability, maintenance required, and costs.
Fence design, construction and placement
- align fencing needs and use with the appropriate materials and design. Consider durability (for example, lifespan and material characteristics including cracking, breaking, chipping, rotting, splintering, stretching and rusting), strength, maintenance, costs, and ease of cleaning and disinfecting if required (for example, fencing in a sick pen and for new arrivals).
- there are many materials available that are alternatives to wood fencing and that provide greater ease of cleaning and disinfection: polymer coated wood, vinyl fencing, polymer coated metal strand or mesh, high tensile metal (smooth wire, woven-wire fabric, mesh, braided polywire), electric fencing (tape, polywire and rope) and metal panel or pipe.
- enclose the property with a clearly visible perimeter fence capable of preventing the escape or intrusion by horses;
- routinely inspect the integrity of fences and gates and repair to prevent indiscriminate commingling;
- under some circumstances, there should be adequate space (at least 10 feet) between double fencing such as fenced paddocks and/or pasture areas to prevent contact between horses (Refer to Figure 10: diagram facility layout); and
- use gates and signage to restrict access to the property and areas within the facility.
Additional information on fence design:
Fence Planning for Horses: Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Extension
Fences for Horse: University of Georgia Extension
8.5 Cleaning and disinfection of barns and equipment
Goal: Cleaning and disinfection is conducted prior to and after use, as well as in the routine maintenance of barns, stalls infrastructure and equipment.
Description: Day-to-day cleaning and disinfection is required to reduce ongoing risk of disease transmission on the farm or facility. Equipment and tools that are used to move feed or manure, or to maintain the farm or facility, particularly those used for separated or sick horses, require specialized cleaning and disinfection practices. It is important that barns, stalls, relevant infrastructure (such as water troughs and fences) and equipment are cleaned and disinfected when there is an outbreak of disease or a suspected case of disease in the herd.
- implement a cleaning and disinfection plan for pathogen control on equipment and environmental surfaces;
- establish cleaning and disinfection protocols and a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting the farm or facility (for example, barns, stalls, water troughs, feed and water buckets) equipment and vehicles;
- clean and disinfect common contact surfaces in paddocks and arenas (for example, gates and fences where horses congregate);
- clean and disinfect trailers, stalls and paddocks between horses and following sickness in horses;
- avoid sharing tack and equipment between horses, and clean and disinfect between horses when necessary;
- always clean before disinfecting because disinfectants are typically ineffective in the presence of organic material;
- avoid high pressure power washing as this can spread pathogens;
- use an effective disinfectant that can inactivate the relevant pathogens; and
- recognize disinfectants are chemicals with variable risks to handlers, horses and environmental surfaces.
Refer to Annex 14 on disinfectants and Annex 15 on cleaning and disinfection procedures.
Thoroughly cleaning surfaces removes the majority of pathogens and is the most important step. Only apply disinfectants to clean surfaces and follow the manufacturer's label directions.
A good resource for procedures that can be applied to equine trailers: The Canadian Swine Health Board's document: Live Hog Transport Vehicle Wash/Disinfect/Dry Protocols
8.6 Barn maintenance, ventilation and wash stalls
Goal: Manage and maintain barns, buildings and wash stall areas and optimize ventilation in horse housing areas.
Description: Maintaining buildings and surfaces in good condition allows effective cleaning and disinfection which reduces the accumulation of pathogens. Good ventilation is an important consideration for the respiratory health of a horse. Ventilation is necessary to provide frequent air exchange and the even distribution of fresh air, to remove moisture and irritants (such as ammonia and particulates), and to regulate temperature. Design and drainage of wash stalls and racks is important to reduce contact among horses and between horses and environmental surfaces.
- ensure surfaces that horses will come into direct contact with are in good repair (i.e., not pitted and cracked);
- ensure there is adequate airflow throughout the barn;
- manage and monitor ventilation to ensure that humidity, airborne particulates and temperature are controlled to reduce their impact on horse health;
- minimize the use of interior stalls where airflow is reduced;
- review wash stall and rack design and implement measures to reduce direct contact between horses and common contact with environmental surfaces; and
- ensure wash stalls are well drained, cleaned and disinfected according to use. Wash stalls should not be drained into areas where horses are housed or pastured.
Additional information on ventilation:
Ventilation horse facilities: Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Extension
Stall and Stable: Canadian Pony Club Education
8.7 Manure management
Goal: Manure is regularly removed, stored and disposed of in a manner that minimizes contact with the herd and prevents contamination of feed and water sources.
Description: Manure is a source of potential pathogens. Potential pathogens can remain infectious for long periods of time in the environment, and the routine removal of manure will reduce pathogen accumulation in the environment. Composting manure can provide additional benefits, including killing the eggs and immature stages of many parasites. Ensure manure storage and disposal methods comply with federal, provincial, and municipal government regulations.
- remove manure from horse stalls, paddocks and pastures on a regular schedule to minimize accumulation. Daily collection and removal is recommended in stalls and paddocks. Weekly and biweekly collection from paddocks and pasture can reduce the accumulation of parasites;
- dedicate tools and equipment used for manure handling to this activity. Designate equipment for areas where horses are separated from other horses. If equipment cannot be dedicated to manure removal activity or designated to specific areas, clean and disinfect the equipment between activities or areas;
- ensure manure storage capacity is sufficient for the size of the facility;
- design and locate manure storage areas to prevent contact with the herd, contamination of feed and water supplies and access by pests and wildlife;
- separate the manure storage area for resident horses from that of high risk horses to minimize opportunities for disease spread;
- compost the manure to inactivate pathogens (including parasites) if manure is to be used as fertilizer in horse pastures (or other susceptible species); and
- wash or sanitize hands and clean and disinfect footwear after handling manure.
Composting manure provides many benefits including:
- Reducing odours and the volume of manure and used bedding
- Recycling nutrients and improving soil quality when used as a soil amendment
- Killing insect and parasite eggs, pupae and larvae
- Inactivating some bacterial and viral pathogens
- Removing breeding areas for insects
- Destroying weed seeds
Additional information on manure management:
Manure and Pasture Management for Horse Owners – Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Manure Storages for Small - to Medium-Size Horse Farms – Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Horse Stable Manure Management – Penn State Extension
Environmentally Friendly Horse Farm Through Better Manure/Waste Management - Government of British Columbia
8.8 Garbage management
Goal: Garbage, medical waste, and sharps are regularly removed and managed to minimize the transmission of pathogens.
- store recyclables and household and stable garbage in closed containers and dispose of regularly; and
- contain medical waste and sharps in separate approved sharps container and dispose of in accordance with local regulations. Approved sharps containers are leak-proof and puncture resistant, highly visible, designed to provide one-way entry of sharps and can be securely closed for transport. Containers can be obtained from your veterinarian, a pharmacy, a medical disposal company or medical supply store. Do not use temporary or unapproved disposal containers as they can be easily punctured or tip and spill releasing the contents.
8.9 Deadstock management
Goal: Deadstock is managed and disposed of to minimize the transmission of pathogens and contamination of the environment.
Description: Ensure the method of carcass disposal and storage complies with municipal and provincial bylaws and regulations. Depending on the region, acceptable methods of disposal may include burial, composting, cremation, rendering, natural means and landfill.
Particular care should be taken in disposing of horses euthanized by chemical solutions as they pose a significant risk because the chemicals are toxic to pets, other animals, wildlife, humans, and the environment.
Horse carcasses can be a source of pathogens, some of which survive for considerable amounts of time in the carcass. Some bacterial, fungal, and parasitic agents can replicate and increase in numbers in and on a carcass. Pests and wildlife with access to these carcasses can spread disease pathogens across the property to neighbouring facilities and to wildlife.
Disposal by natural means and burial is not permitted in all provinces, check with your provincial authority.
Euthanasia solutions (medications) are extremely potent. Even small amounts of medication in used syringes can be dangerous to animals and people. Carefully dispose of syringes and needles and wipe up any blood spatters following euthanasia to prevent human and animal contact.
- determine the cause of death, if not obvious, to try to rule-out contagious or infectious sources;
- if removal of the carcass and cleaning and disinfection of the area (for example, a stall or pen) is not immediately possible, prevent access by pets, pests, wildlife, other livestock, and other horses until the carcass can be moved;
- ensure carcass holding areas prevent access by pets, pests and scavengers and where carcasses are picked up by a disposal service, the location minimizes entry to horse housing areas; and
- dedicate equipment or clean and disinfect equipment used for the collection and disposal of carcasses.
Figure 10: Example of facility layout and paddock separation:
Separating the paddock and stabling areas for horses that have a different health status or belong to different peer groups helps minimize pathogen transmission and facilitates management of the horses on the farm or facility. The resident horse barn, turnout paddocks and separation paddock are all restricted access zones accessible through controlled access points (gates). The two-day turnout paddocks are fully fenced and separated by more than 10 feet, which prevents direct contact between horses, and each is supplied with their own watering trough. New and returning horses can be separated in a stall at the end of the barn and a turnout paddock set aside for their use.
Sick horses require the highest level of biosecurity and, ideally, should be physically separated from other horses on the property (separation barn). Restrict entry to only those people necessary for the care of these horses and require hand washing before and after entry. Dedicate coveralls and footwear specifically for this barn or clean and disinfect boots on entry and exit. Dedicate and label all tack and equipment (buckets, rakes, shovels etc.) and ensure none of it is removed and used with other horses. If a separate location is not available, a stall that is isolated from other horses within the resident horse barn can be used; however, the shared air space and close proximity to other horses can result in the inadvertent transmission of pathogens by airborne routes and other indirect methods of contact.
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