A third national equine study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) gets underway this month.
Through surveys and interviews with the owners of horses, donkeys, mules and ponies, as well as other people associated with the equine industry, the NAHMS Equine 2015 study covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from the management of lameness and infectious diseases to trends in management to health-related costs of ownership. Previous NAHMS equine studies were conducted in 1998 and 2005.
“The data from previous NAHMS studies has been used in focusing of research on equine health topics,” explains Josie Traub-Dargatz, DVM, MS, DACVIM, an equine commodity specialist for USDA and professor at Colorado State University. “The studies also allow for comparison of what owners are actually doing related to equine health management with what guidelines, such as those from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), actually recommend. For example, in the NAHMS Equine 2005 study it was found that the most commonly administered equine vaccines were those recommended as core vaccines by the AAEP, illustrating that the use practices paralleled the guidelines. In addition, the most commonly administered vaccine---based on the NAHMS Equine 2005 study findings---was West Nile virus (WNV) vaccine. In 1998 there were no equine WNV vaccines available in this country as WNV was not identified here until 1999. This finding illustrates how rapidly the pharmaceutical companies, equine practitioners and equine owners responded to protect horses from WNV infection through vaccination.”
People cannot volunteer to participate in the NAHMS study. Instead, they will be selected through a predefined process. “The equine operations are selected by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) from a list of places that qualify as a “farm”---those that have or could have sold 1,000 dollars of agricultural products or own five or more equines and are not a commercial operation like a racetrack,” says Traub-Dargatz. “If selected by NASS for participation in the study, the operation will receive an introductory letter and an information sheet with details about the study. Then a NASS representative will contact the person by phone to set up a face-to-face interview to complete the questionnaire, which is phase 1 of the study. They will also determine if the person is willing to participate in the second phase of the study, which involves a site visit to their farm.”
There are some incentives for individual owners to participate in the study. For instance, those who participate in the second phase of the study can have up to six horses tested for internal parasites to evaluate them for anthelmintic resistance.
“There is also an option to have up to 10 equids examined for ticks by a veterinary medical officer or animal health technician [VMO/AHT],” says Traub-Dargatz. If ticks are found they will be collected and sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) for identification of the type of tick(s) and a report will be provided to the equine operator. There is also an option to have the VMO/AHT perform a biosecurity assessment of the operation and a report of findings provided back to the equine operation.”
After the data are analyzed, the NAHMS 2015 study results will be shared through technical reports, information sheets and peer-reviewed scientific papers. “We make every effort to have the reports and info sheets available in a timely manner so that the results are in the hands of equine owners and others affiliated with the equine industry as quickly as possible after the data is collected, validated and interpretation of the findings written,” says Traub-Dargatz.For more information on the NAHMS 2015 Equine study go to www.aphis.usda.gov/nahms.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #453, June 2015.