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Maid for Running & her filly foal by Ishiguru at David Redvers's Tweenhills Stud.

The importance of good hygiene practice was stressed at the ITBA seminar

  PICTURE: Lawrence Squire  

Irish breeders hear of horse disease threats

A special report from the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association's seminar on Bi0-Security (combating the threat of diseases) for thoroughbreds

ITBA chairman Dr Dean Harron began the conference at the Carton House Hotel in Maynooth by saying the aim was to support and encourage breeders and to inform, educate and update their knowledge in order to safeguard thoroughbreds and protect the bloodstock industry.

This was reiterated by Brendan Smith TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who praised theITBA in his opening speech and emphasised the importance of awareness and partnership in working together to prevent disease outbreaks.

Des Leadon, Head of Clinical Pathology at the Irish Equine Centre, presented a global overview of the world's diseases and patterns, pointing out the need to learn from past lessons.

More importantly, he illustrated the world's equine population and highlighted the main areas of movement, showing the extent of the threat of diseasethat the thoroughbred industry may not be aware of.

The Chief Veterinary Officer of the Department of Agriculture, Paddy Rogan, discussed the role of his department before Professor Josie Traub-Dargatz, from Colorado State University,examined the management of infectious disease outbreaks.

Early recognition and response are vital and communication is the key. She advised the implementation of a containment plan and the establishment of a criteria for determining when the outbreak is over.

Meta Osborne, former President of the Veterinary Council of Ireland, examined the role of Veterinary Ireland and again emphasised education, communication and partnership with industry groups. She recommended keeping detailed records of all movements, both within the farm and beyond, and stressed the importance of good hygiene practices.

Professor Ann Cullinane, Head of the Virology Unit at the Irish Equine Centre and a World Organisation for Animal Health designated expert in equine influenza, listed emerging viral diseases of potential relevance to Ireland and examined case studies from abroad, showing the measures in place to deal with possible outbreaks and the lack of probability of such outbreaks occurring.

Following a brief break to digest all that had been learned earlier, Jennifer Hollyer, assistant pathologist at the Irish Equine Centre, presented an analysis of atypical myoglobinuria, its signs, diagnosis andtreatment. Dr Mariann Klay, who helped to establish the neonatal intensive care service at the Troytown Equine Hospital, then profiled Rhodococcus equi.

She advised thorough twice-daily observation of foals to enable fast veterinary intervention, which ultimately saves money in treatment costs. She identified specific high risk factors as high foal density, overstocking, lack of pasture height and grass cover, and low soil pH. Deep litter is particularly dangerous.

Michael Scannell, Director of Food And Veterinary Office of the EU, discussed the role of the EU and the FVO and provided an update on the current EIA situation in Romania.

He explained the strict procedures, recommendations and enforcements in place. Supervisory Veterinary Officer of the Department of Agriculture, Mike Sheahan, concluded the talks with a look at existing transport regulations and the difficulties in creating new legislation.

Proposed changes are still likely to be at least three years away and the thoroughbred industry is favourable regarded due to its high standards.

The subsequent questions-and-answer session showed a high level of comprehension and commitment to comply with all bio-security recommendations.

A request to produce an educational programme aimed at stable staff was well-received by Dr Dean Harron of the ITBA, who intends to produce a guide on simple bio-security measures to be circulated to all staff within the thoroughbred industry.

The crossover use of thoroughbreds in other equine sectors was also highlighted and the threat of disease spreading beyond the thoroughbred sector was identified as a serious problem in terms of containment and traceability.

The final note was a reiteration of the ongoing theme of communication and partnership. Visitors were told that it is imperative that all sectors come together and establish a bio-security plan.





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