We're looking for sheep and goat brains, plus a horse boarding biosecurity checklist

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board of animal health

Animal Bytes

January 2023

Viral disease detected in horse boarding barns

Horse in Stall

The Board recently confirmed two cases of Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) in separate boarding facilities in Washington and Dakota Counties. This virus is usually spread by horse-to-horse contact. During the cold winter months many horses are boarded together indoors and it can be a high-risk time for disease transmission. (image is a stock BAH photo)

EHM is reportable to the Board because it is highly contagious. Horses displaying clinical signs with temperatures of 102°F or higher are required to be tested for EHV-1. The virus is shed from infected horses via the respiratory tract and is capable of surviving in organic material like manure and feed. Horses may appear healthy yet still spread the virus.

Winter is a prime time to stay on top of barn biosecurity. Diseases can impact horses any time of year. It's important to keep biosecurity at the forefront of barn care to prevent spread of infection.

  • Stalls should be cleaned regularly, and waste stored in an area away from horses. Do not reuse cleaning equipment like shovels or wheelbarrows for other purposes like scooping and transporting feed.
  • Prevent horse-to-horse contact between stalls.
  • Clean and disinfect stalls between horses.
  • Wash your hands between handling horses. Hand sanitizer may be used if water is unavailable, however, you need to remove all organic debris from hands for the sanitizer to be effective.
  • Feed equipment like water buckets and feed tubs should not be shared between horses.
  • Clean and disinfect shared equipment like bits, grooming supplies, thermometers, etc. between each horse.
  • Launder and dry cloth items like blankets, towels, saddle cloth, etc. between each use.
  • Ointments and topical medications should be assigned to a specific horse and not shared. If using a large supply, divide amounts into allotments for specific horses. Don't double dip.
  • Restrict vehicles and foot traffic. Do not allow visitors to walk through the stalls. If it is necessary, make sure they have barn specific footwear or disposable boot covers.
  • Keep rodents out. Properly store feed and use rodent control.

Vaccines are available for EHV-1. However, these vaccines are not labeled for prevention of the neurological form of the virus (EHM).

Keep reading...

Meet the Team: Dr. Veronica Bartsch

We're launching a new "Meet the Team" series of short videos to highlight the experts at work in our small agency. The first video in the series features the leader of our companion animal program, Dr. Veronica Bartsch.

Learn about Dr. Bartsch's background in this short video.

Brain samples from sheep and goats needed to eradicate disease

The U.S. is nearing the finish line after a 70 year battle against scrapie, a fatal disease affecting the brain of sheep and goats. Sheep and goat producers are needed to achieve eradication. The current program has been very successful in drastically reducing the amount of scrapie in the U.S. However, one of the most difficult aspects of an eradication program is finding the last few cases of the disease.

The two most recent cases of scrapie found in the U.S. were sampled at slaughter, but could not be traced back to a farm origin. One case was a sheep in Wisconsin in 2021 and another was a goat in Indiana in 2019. Because owners of these animals did not have adequate records or did not apply official identification before they sold them, we couldn’t find where they came from. It is likely there are still farms with cases of scrapie. For a country to be considered free of scrapie, international standards require no sheep or goats test positive for classical scrapie for seven years and a certain level of testing be done each year that represents the sheep and goat populations within the country. The samples we use to test for scrapie include brain and lymph nodes.

Each year, states are given sampling targets to be collected based on sheep and goat populations. This assures sampling represents the different populations. In federal fiscal year 2023 (October 1, 2022 – September 30, 2023), Minnesota’s goal is to sample at least 300 mature (>18 months) sheep and 100 mature goats. We need help from our small ruminant industry to obtain these samples. If you have adult sheep or goats that die, must be euthanized, or are being culled, please contact the Board at 651-201-6809. There is no charge for the collection or testing of the samples. Producers may be eligible for free official plastic tags from USDA as long as our supplies last.

USDA seeking public comments on RFID for cattle, bison

The USDA is proposing to require electronic identification for interstate movement of certain cattle and bison. The agency is also proposing to revise and clarify record requirements. These changes would strengthen our ability to quickly respond to significant animal disease outbreaks.

Major animal disease outbreaks hurt farmers and all those who support them along the supply chain, threaten our food security, and impact our ability to trade America’s high quality food products around the world. Rapid traceability in a disease outbreak could help farmers get back to selling their products more quickly; limit how long farms are quarantined; and keep more animals from getting sick.

The proposed rule would require official eartags to be visually and electronically readable for official use for interstate movement of certain cattle and bison. It would also revise and clarify certain record requirements related to cattle.

You can review the proposed rule in the Federal Register and submit public comments online. All comments must be received by March 22, 2023.

Next Quarterly Board Meeting

The next quarterly meeting of the Board of Animal Health will be held Wednesday, February 8, 2023, both in person at the Best Western Plus Kelly Inn (100 4th Ave. S., St. Cloud, MN 56301) and on Microsoft Teams.

Find remote meeting information and view the latest agenda on the Board website.