Insights Into the Equine Sector of the Livestock Industry
Bill desBarres – Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada
Compared to other sectors of the livestock industry equine may be classed as more fragmented. Many, if not most of the other livestock species are under or within umbrella organizations. Species populations in much of the livestock industry are concentrated by flocks, feedlots, herds etc. It may be submitted that for the most part patrons and enthusiasts of the equine sector may have fewer than four animals. For the most part owners of equine may not be members of a breed, discipline or other organization. This would submit most of the horse owners in Canada may be driven by a narrow passion. Therefore it may be reasonable to assume technical and/or science based research and the results thereof have not been adequately identified or circulated. We have not learned the priorities of need or how to direct the information to the majority of the equine community. Within very recent years efforts have commenced to identify critical areas of concern within the equine sector of the livestock industry.
1. BIOSECURITY: Biosecurity is a preventative process to reduce the chances of infectious diseases. The practice of biosecurity should be a planned process on every property where animals and/or humans frequent or reside. In 2011 Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF) initiated a project with the cooperation of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Growing Forward to promote more and better biosecurity practices in the equine community. The project grew to become a National program with the National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity Standard for the Equine Sector manual now in print and available from all provincial/territorial and other equine organizations.
2. DISEASE SURVEILLANCE: Equine disease surveillance is extremely important to the health and welfare of animals, trade and public health including the ability to transport equine with minimal restrictions. It is, and will be critical to establish a path that will increase and facilitate communication respecting established and new infectious diseases with current and reliable reporting for horse custodians, owners, veterinarians and other equine stakeholders. Members of the Canadian Animal Health Surveillance System (CAHSS) are engaged in a communication strategy to better protect horses and the horse industry in Canada in cooperation with the Equine Disease Communication Centre (EDCC) in the United States. The communication system will be designed to seek and report real time information respecting disease identification and outbreaks through the Equine National Health Surveillance Network.
3. SURVEY OF AWARENESS, IMPLEMENTATION AND COMPLIANCE TO THE CODE OF PRACTICE: The survey is targeted at all aspects and participants of the Canadian equine industry including but not limited to horse owners, custodians, equine based businesses and equestrians to determine knowledge and compliance to the standards and requirements set forth in the Code document. Code documents have been created for each livestock species in Canada. The sustainability of Canada’s equine industry depends in large part on a degree of education and communications available to horse owners. The Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada (HWAC) national survey (www.horsewelfare.ca) is a pre-cursor to the development of an animal care assessment program for equine, the framework (www.nfacc.ca) of which has been developed through the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC).
4. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Fires, floods, vehicle incidents, building collapse and other disastrous events in recent years have indicated a lack of preparation to manage unforeseen and unplanned events. The Alberta Equestrian Federation has completed a survey and is proceeding to establish a collaborative program to include equine industry partners, government agencies and municipal representatives including indigenous communities. The program when completed will have developed tools, training programs and an Equine Emergency Resource Team that will improve efficiency and safety of people and equine that may be involved in an emergency situation.