Equine Health and Management TrendsBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 21, 2007
The USDA recently released information collected by an equine demographics, health, and management survey. The 2005 study covered 28 states; collected data from 3,349 operations with five or more horses; and is thought to represent about 78% of horses and horse operations in the United States.
Type of Equid “Equid” was defined as an animal in the equine family. This included horses, miniature horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, and zedonks (zebra/donkey crosses). Horses made up 86.6% of the equid population; 3.9% were miniature horses; 3.7% were donkeys; 3.4% were ponies; and 2.3% were mules.
Operations 40% of operations were classified as farms or ranches. Another 37% were classified as residences with horses for personal use such as show or pleasure riding. Breeding farms accounted for 14%, and equine boarding/training facilities made up 6%. About two-thirds of all operations had from five to nine horses; one-quarter had ten to 19 horses; and 8% had more than 20 horses.
Use Pleasure riding was the most common use at 46%. Other significant categories of use were farm or ranch work (25%), breeding (16%), and showing or competition (10%).
Age Animals were grouped into rather broad age categories. Those under six months of age made up about 8% of the total; six months to five years were 27%; 5 to 20 years, 57%; and over 20 years, 7%.
Identification Method On almost half the premises surveyed (49.4%), there was at least one horse without unique identification. Branding or tattooing was used for 37% of horses; microchips were implanted in 3%; registration papers served as the identification for 61%; and 40% were identified by the description on Coggins papers. For 4%, halters or collars with nameplates were used for identification. Some horse owners have multiple methods of identification for the horses on their premises, so totals add up to more than 100%.
Use Prevalence Operations that fed horses some amount of concentrates in addition to hay or pasture made up 90% of the total.
Source Almost 80% of surveyed operations bought bagged concentrates from a retail source. Another 10% bought horse feed in bulk from a retail source. Three percent took bulk delivery from a non-retail source, and 8% of operations fed home-grown grains.
Storage Grain was stored in such a way as to prevent contamination by rodents at 85% of surveyed operations.
Disease incidence and control
Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA, swamp fever) Since the early 1970s, the Coggins test has been widely used to detect EIA. Virtually all horses that race, show, or travel must have a Coggins test done regularly. While the number of horses tested has seen a steady rise, the number of positive tests fell sharply from 1972 to 1978 and then has continued a slow decline. Positive results nationally are now at about 0.01% of those tested. The only states with double-digit positive cases in 2005 were Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
West Nile Virus (WNV) First detected in New Yorkin 1999, WNV spread south and west across the country in subsequent years. More than 15,000 cases were reported nationally in 2002. As vaccines were developed, the infection rate dropped significantly. In 2005, just over 1000 cases were seen from almost 40 states. Vaccinations, insect control on premises, and topical insect repellents have been credited with reducing the impact of WNV.
Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) Significant equine outbreaks of VS were seen in the last decade in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming, with other western states reporting a few cases. The disease is spread by insects and also by direct contact between animals. Quarantine and travel restrictions have been used as effective control measures.
Record-keeping For the most part, horse owners maintained some sort of health management records. Records were kept on a computer at 8% of operations; 23% kept hand-written logs or notebooks; a calendar or checkbook was the method for 26%; and 20% of operations counted on their veterinarians to keep track of vaccinations and other health measures. An amazing 23% kept no written health management records of any kind!
Parasites Figures are not available on deworming practices as to frequency, type of product used, and whether products were administered by owners or veterinarians. About 13.5% of operations indicated performing fecal testing for parasites during the previous 12 months.
Vaccinations Horses on three-fourths of all equine operations received at least one vaccination during the twelve-month period prior to the study, leaving 25% of horses getting no disease protection. Vaccines were supplied by veterinarians 76% of the time, with retail stores and catalogs listed as the source for most other supplies. Half the surveyed premised indicated a veterinarian gave the vaccinations; personnel at the equine operations gave vaccinations 33% of the time; and horse owners administered the rest. West Nilevirus vaccine was most commonly given, followed by vaccines to prevent tetanus, eastern and western equine encephalitis, and influenza. Vaccinations for strangles, rabies, Potomachorse fever, anthrax, and other diseases were given less often.
Injuries and Illness Just over one-fourth of surveyed operations reported at least one horse sustained an injury, wound, or trauma during the twelve months prior to the survey, and just over 15% of operations reported at least one horse suffered from lameness severe enough that the horse could not be used for its intended purpose without treatment. Colic was reported by 10% of the operations. Respiratory problems occurred at 9% of the operations followed by eye, dental, skin, or weight (obesity) problems.
Cause of death Whether or not death was natural or by euthanasia, old age was the leading cause (30.4%). Injury or trauma was the second leading cause (16%) followed by colic (15.2%).
Equine 2005, Part II: Changes in the U.S. Equine Industry, 1998-2005 was a cooperative effort between the National Agricultural Statistics Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Questions and requests for additional copies of the report should be sent to USDA-APHIS-VS-CEAH, 2150 Centre Avenue, Bldg. B, MS 2E7, Fort Collins, CO 80526-8117. The telephone number is 970-494-7000.