The challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic have led to new protocols for Thoroughbred breeding to minimize risk of infection among farm staff and related personnel charged with transporting and handling horses.
The Jockey Club recommends that all North American, Central American, and Caribbean Thoroughbred stud farm operations at a minimum follow guidelines from the Kentucky Department of Ag Guidelines for COVID-19: Breeding Shed Activity issued by E.S. “Rusty” Ford from the Office of the State Veterinarian, Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
With vans and individuals visiting multiple facilities each day during the breeding season, it is important to adopt standard practices in how people and horses visiting sheds are managed. The essential elements enumerated in the guidelines are reproduced below with permission from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture:
Kentucky Department of Ag Guidelines For COVID-19: Breeding Shed Activity:
BREEDING SHED ACTIVITY: With vans and individuals visiting multiple facilities each day we do recommend adopting standard practices in how we manage people and horses visiting sheds.
1. Submission of documentation for mares booked to be bred would best be done electronically. We’ve seen numerous reports where handled paper can be contaminated.
2. Eliminate outside individuals (van drivers and mare attendants) from coming into the prep area and shed. To accomplish this, the van would arrive, the mare would be offloaded and handed off to a shed employee (using the shed’s shank) who would handle the mare through the process. The van driver and anyone accompanying the mare to the shed should remain outside in the parking area while maintaining social distance with other individuals.
3. After cover, the mare would be returned to the loading area and handed off to the attendant for loading onto the van. If there is need for a mare’s attendant to witness the cover, this should be accomplished from outside – looking in, videotaped or virtually.
4. The shank would be cleaned before returning to the shed or reuse and attendant would wash hands [recommended addition by The Jockey Club: or preferably disinfected with acceptable products efficacious in preventing the spread of viral or bacterial agents and the use of disposable gloves by attendants are recommended where practicable].
5. Breeding equipment (leg straps, collars, boots etc.) would be cleaned before reuse [recommended addition by The Jockey Club: or preferably disinfected with acceptable products efficacious in preventing the spread of viral or bacterial agents and the use of disposable gloves by attendants are recommended where practicable].
6. Additionally, maintaining enhanced biosecurity in our daily activity is essential to all of these mitigations.
Implementing these practices, and any other action you can take to eliminate people from congregating in common areas will be beneficial and could be critical in our ability to continue transporting horses to/from sheds.
For information on COVID-19 in the United States, please visit the Centers for Disease Control.
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