JULY 2018 THE RIDER /19 Pilot Study looks at On-Farm Welfare Assessment Tool for Equines in Canada

Guelph, ON, June, 2018 - Thanks to a team of University of Guelph researchers, we are one step closer to having a wel- fare assessment tool tailored for horses in Canada. The research team, headed by Cordelie DuBois and Katrina Merkies, recently designed and tested an on-farm welfare assessment tool. The tool aimed to evaluate whether the National Farm An- imal Care Council’s (NFACC) Code of Practice standards are being met on equine farms in Canada, while helping farm managers learn about the cur- rent standards. The results were recently published in the Jour- nal of Equine Veterinary Sci- ence.

Major advances in equine

welfare in Canada were made when NFACC released the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines in 2013. In other countries, docu- ments outlining welfare guide- lines are often paired with the development of welfare assess- ment tools that can be used to determine whether guidelines are being followed on farm. In Europe, there are multiple tools

that exist, like the Assessment Protocol for Horses and the An- imal Welfare Indicators ap- proach. Differences between industries in other countries and Canada, particularly related to welfare legislation, are part of the reason that developing a Canadian-specific tool was im- portant. This, and ultimately, the tool’s ability to support the use of the NFACC Code of practice as Canadian welfare standards, is what makes DuBois’ work so monumental for Canadian equine welfare. Researchers tested the as-

sessment tool on 26 farms in Southern Ontario. The farms had various primary uses in- cluding boarding facilities, rid- ing schools, private farms and trail riding facilities. The farms had different numbers of horses and kept the horses under dif- ferent management conditions. While the assessments con- ducted by DuBois and her team revealed dry stalls and well- stored feed, some of the typical findings not in compliance with the Code of Practice included: structural aspects, cleanliness of outdoor water troughs, pro-

vision of outdoor shelter, segre- gation of new arrivals and emergency preparedness. The assessments took an average of 144 +/- 15 minutes to complete. Researchers noted that differ- ences in management practices between and within farms (such as some horses being on 24/7 turnout vs. other horses being on day time turnout) added challenges to the assessment procedure. Farm managers were also

asked about their familiarity with several documents related to equine welfare. Interestingly, managers were most familiar with Equine Guelph’s biosecu- rity handout (54%) followed by the NFACC’s Equine Code of Practice (50%). The researchers conducted

follow up interviews with as- sessors and participants to eval- uate their experience with the tool. DuBois notes, “These in- terviews helped to identify areas where a welfare assess- ment program would be useful to the Canadian industry and areas where implementing a program might be challenging.” The feedback will be used to

refine the tool for future work. DuBois provides a nice

summary of the importance of their work, “This study pro- vides an initial look at the lo- gistics of doing an on-farm welfare assessment in Canada, knowing the diversity of the in- dustry. Our findings give us a foundation for future work in- vestigating an on-farm assess- ment tool such as this.” This study was funded in part by Equine Guelph.

About Equine Guelph: Equine Guelph is the

horse owners’ and care givers’ Centre at the University of Guelph in Canada. It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups. Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government - for the good of the equine industry as a whole. For further information, visit Story by: Nicole Weidner

Biosecurity Fact sheet from Equine Guelph: bio_security_info_FINAL.pdf

Journal of Equine Veterinary Science publication: ence/article/pii/S07370806173 07074

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