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April 8, 2015

USDA to Begin Equine Study This Spring

The USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) will launch Equine 2015, its third national study of the U.S. equine industry, in May. NAHMS conducted previous equine studies in 1998 and 2005.

A NAHMS stakeholder announcement indicated the Equine 2015 is designed to provide participants, industry, and animal health officials with information on the nation’s equine population that will serve as a basis for education, service, and research related to equine health and management. The survey is also designed to provide the industry with new and valuable information regarding trends in the industry for 1998, 2005, and 2015.

"The findings from the NAHMS studies will allow equine owners and equine operation managers to compare their equine health and management to that of national and regional equine health occurrence and equine care practices," explained Josie Traub-Dargatz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor of equine medicine and epidemiology at Colorado State University and equine commodity specialist for USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services (VS) Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health. "The study findings will also allow researchers and others to determine need for further investigation of equine health problems."

The stakeholder announcement said that, for this study, NAHMS asked equine owners, industry stakeholders, and government officials to provide input and define the information needs of the equine industry. From this process, NAHMS identified seven study objectives:

Describe trends in equine care and health management for study years (1998, 2005, and 2015);
Estimate the occurrence of owner-reported lameness and describe lameness management practices;
Describe health and management practices associated with important equine infectious diseases;
Describe health-related costs of equine ownership;
Evaluate gastrointestinal parasite control practices;
Evaluate equids for the presence of ticks, and describe tick-control practices used on equine operations; and
Collect equine blood sera along with demographic information to create a serum bank for future studies.

To collect the data for the study, representatives from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will visit randomly selected equine operations in 28 states, beginning in May 2015, and conduct personal interviews at all participating operations. Those states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Traub-Dargatz said states were selected based on the number or density of the state equine population, geographic location, and available regional workforce to conduct the study.

According to the stakeholder announcement, representatives from the USDA’s VS will schedule visits for operations that choose to continue in the second phase of the study from late summer through mid-December to administer a second questionnaire, perform a facility biosecurity assessment, collect equine blood and fecal samples, perform a tick exam of equines on the operation, and collect tick specimens for identification. Operations continuing in the study also have the option of collecting fecal samples to be tested for internal parasites in order to detect anthelmintic resistance.

Traub-Dargatz said potential participants in the study will be selected based on NASS' list of operations with equine from the 2012 Agriculture Census—horse owners and equine facility operators cannot self-select to participate. Operations in the participating states with five or more equids based on their equine inventory during the 2012 agricultural census will be eligible for selection by NASS for participation in the study.

"The selection procedure allows NAHMS to provide estimates based on having a representative sample of equine operations selected for inclusion in the study," she said.

Traub-Dargatz stressed that the study relies heavily on the participation of selected owners and equine facility operators: "It is very important for those equine owners that are selected to participate in the study to give their response on the questionnaires and have their animals be part of the biologic sampling as the selected owners/equine operations represent others in their state."

Interested individuals can see the results of the previous NAHMS equine studies at http://nahms.aphis.usda.gov.

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