NAHMS probes equine health status

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Jan 01, 2007

FORT COLLINS, COLO. — Old age was the number one cause of death for horses, according to a recently released study of equine health from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).


Table 1: Percent of operations by testing performed during the past 12 months
What's the bad news? Injury/wounds/ trauma (16.3 percent) and colic (14.6 percent) accounted for more than 30 percent of equid deaths.

In early December, the USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) published Part I of Equine 2005, an in-depth study of the U.S. equine population.

Part I of Equine 2005 is the study's On-Farm; Part II, due out at the end of January, looks at the population of equines that are moved from place to place for sales, shows and other events.

This is the second in-depth study of the nation's equine population done by NAHMS, the first being Equine '98.

"The goal of the study was not to identify new treatments or outbreaks of disease," reports Dr. Josie Traub-Dargatz, an equine commodity specialist for CEAH, "but rather to estimate the use of various management and control practices."

Equine 2005 On-Farm component collected data on equine health and management practices from a representative sample of operations that have five or more equids in 28 states in four regions: West (California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming); Northeast (New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania); South (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia); and Central (Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin).


Table 2: Percentage of operations by familiarity with EIA
The 28-state target population represented 78 percent of equids and 78.6 percent of operations with five or more equids in the United States. Interviews were conducted from July 18 through Aug. 12, 2005, and 2,893 equine operations provided data on equine health and management.

"The main objectives of the Equine 2005 On-Farm component were to gather information regarding methods used by premises with five or more equids related to infection control and to gather information on some selected diseases," says Traub-Dargatz, who also serves as professor of equine medicine at Colorado State University. "There are many interesting findings, and I think they allow the veterinarian to compare his or her clients' methods of infection control to those in the report.

"For example, I found it interesting that in 1998, we had not recognized West Nile virus in the United States, and now vaccination against this disease is more common than vaccination against any other disease for which we have equine vaccines," she says. "I think this illustrates how quickly the pharmaceutical industry and the equine industry responded to a threat to the U.S. equine population."

Traub-Dargatz adds a trends report will be available in late December that will compare other key findings between Equine 2005 and Equine '98.