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Articles from 2020 In May

Retailer resources for reopening

Human Resources

Retailers looking to create a safe and efficient back-to-work program may obtain guidance from these sources.

The National Retail Federation has published a 10-page  “Operation Open Doors Checklist” that covers a host of areas such as preparing stores for opening, dealing with employment matters, promoting contactless shopping, and adequate cleaning routines. (Navigate to nrf.com and click “Operation Open Doors.”)

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) offers guidance on deciding when and how to open, cleanliness and disinfection, and reducing the transmission of infection among employees. (Navigate to cdc.gov, then click on “Learn More About Covid-19” and then “Businesses and Workplaces.”)

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers guidance on how COVID-19 spreads, how to assess potential hazards, and how to control the risks to workers. (Navigate to osha.gov, then click on “Coronavirus resources” then “Control and Prevention”)

State and local agencies also maintain websites with helpful materials.

Bringing people back to work

Neon open sign

Working from home is over. Partly, anyhow. And after weeks of telephone conferencing and video chatting, many workers are doubtless eager to return to their stores. In managing this reverse migration, though, retailers must coordinate a patchwork of safety procedures and showroom modifications while communicating effectively with employees.

Maybe the greatest challenge is convincing everyone it’s safe to come back to work. “Many people are still scared, and their fear is valid,” says Bill Hagaman, CEO and Managing Partner of Withum. “The risk of the virus impacting someone at any moment continues to be very real.”

It stands to reason, then, that retailers must ensure no one gets sick by visiting their stores. But the reasons for doing so go beyond health and morale. Work-related illnesses can spark injury lawsuits, workers compensation claims or charges the employer failed to provide a safe workplace as defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). “As employers put in place their return to work programs they must address legal issues concerning the safety of employees, vendors, suppliers, clients and customers,” says Paul Evans, a partner in the Employment & Compensation Practice Group in Baker & McKenzie's..

Cleaning up

Most safety programs will begin with the physical site. “The retail store must be thoroughly cleaned,” says Richard Avdoian, an employee development consultant in Metropolitan St. Louis. “Attention must be paid especially to the common areas, restrooms, checkouts, chairs and desks. Sanitizing gels should be made available throughout.”

Some retailers will need to retool their entire workplace footprint.  In the showroom that would mean retrofitting of checkouts and gondolas to allow for sufficient social distancing by customers and staff. “Consider one-way aisles if you have permanent fixtures and cannot keep people six feet apart any other way,” says Bob Phibbs, a retail consultant based in Coxsackie, N.Y.. Also look into utilizing contactless payment options and self-checkouts. “Install customer facing credit card terminals,” says Phibbs. “And ask your vendor how to clean them safely so they don’t short out when you use liquid detergents.”

The back office may also need attention. “Businesses with an open model concept will have to consider whether it needs to be modified,” says Bob Gregg, Co-chair of the Employment Practice Law Group at Boardman & Clark LLC, Madison, Wis. “People will not want to sit out in the open with others sneezing.” Workstations can be spread apart to the requisite six feet of separation. Plexiglass barriers can be installed where appropriate.

Retailers may also need to modify long-standing work procedures. A single-serve machine might replace a group coffee maker. Conference room chairs might be removed so people can sit far enough from one another. Hallways might be turned into one-way corridors. And the job of turning on the lights might be assigned to one person.

Signs posted throughout the store can remind everyone to maintain proper social distancing, keep washing their hands and wear their masks. “Employers should ensure their workers refrain from unnecessary touching or congregating in cafeterias and conference rooms,” says Susan Gross Sholinsky, Vice Chair of the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice of Epstein, Becker Green in New York.

In deciding what to do and not to do with their workplaces, businesses can obtain guidance from the government. Local and state authorities are issuing discretionary guidelines and mandatory directives. Some are very detailed, limiting the number of people permitted in a workspace, for example, to 25% or 50% of a room’s normal capacity. At the federal level, several agencies are issuing return to work advisories ranging from social distancing to the ventilation of workspaces to health screenings for employees.

Taking temperatures

Federal and state authorities are also offering guidance on a popular method for reducing the risk of infection: taking the temperatures of arriving employees.  “The prevailing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is that any temperature above 100.4 degrees warrants sending the employee home for the day,” says Evans. “If the temperature is above normal, but below 100.4 degrees, then the guideline is to wait 15 minutes and take the temperature again to see if it goes up above 100.4.” Advisories are also available from local and state authorities at various levels of detail. “Temperature checks may be more important in hot spots than elsewhere,” says Evans.

Health procedures of any kind pose legal issues. “Taking temperatures as people come into the workplace starts to raise wage and hour questions if people must stand in line,” says Gregg. “Employers need to ask, ‘How many minutes are workers standing?’ And ‘Should they be paid for those minutes?’”

Privacy issues may also arise. “What do you do if a person has a fever?” poses Gregg. “How do you respond in a way which does not single them out? You don't want a gong to go off or to let others see you shuttle them to a holding pen. You want to handle things in a way that does not violate privacy.”

If doorway health inspections help boost morale, employers should realize they are not sure things. “An individual can be infected with Covid-19 without having a fever,” says Evans. “However, the medical community still seems to think of temperature checks as important tools for ensuring workplace safety.”

Gradual returns

No safety plan can succeed if too many people crowd into the store and back office, placing themselves and others at risk. Many businesses are moderating the flow of arrivals by bringing back people in stages, even going so far as to require eager volunteers to obtain clearance from their supervisors before returning. Others are separating their staffs into two or more teams and allowing one group back at a time.

“Employers should consider the feasibility of staggering shift times or of establishing an alternating workday or workweek schedule,” says Sholinsky. “They should be flexible and creative in developing policies that maximize productivity and ensure the highest levels of safety.”

If some employees are too eager to return, others will be fearful of doing so too quickly. Allowing those individuals to continue to work remotely may help obviate safety risks. “If your business is set up for some employees to work from home, then consider allowing them to continue to do so,” says Hagaman. “Give special thought to parents of school-aged children in states where schools have shut down for the remainder of the year. Remote working capabilities can also protect employees who take public transportation to work by limiting their exposure.”

Avoiding discrimination

Employers need to avoid intentional or nonintentional discrimination in the pool of people returning to work. “When everyone is not recalled, some people are laid off,” says Gregg. “The demographics of the exceptions should be worked through.” There should be no pattern by age, disability, race or gender.

Particular care should be taken if someone in a managerial role is overheard saying the pandemic has created a golden opportunity to not bring back a “difficult” employee. “You have to take a step back and figure out why the employee is labeled difficult,” says Gregg. “Is it because of poor performance, or because they have spoken up on protected matters concerning safety or employment?”

The law explicitly prohibits adverse actions against anyone who has taken time off as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak. “Employers may be subject to retaliation claims when employees are terminated or otherwise subject to adverse employment actions after they have taken sick leave, a leave of absence under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or under a COVID-19-specific law such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA),” says Sholinsky.

Accommodating disabilities

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and equivalent state and local laws create an especially hazardous legal terrain. An employer should not deny a request to work from home if that arrangement would be a reasonable accommodation for a COVID-19 related disability. “There may be a charge that the employee should have been allowed to work remotely if that individual has a compromised immune system or a condition identified by the CDC as one that would make the employee more vulnerable to being sickened by Covid-19,” says Sholinsky.

Ironically, the prevalence of remote work arrangements in recent months may have weakened employers’ traditional legal defenses in this area. “Given that employers allowed people to work from home for so long during the pandemic, it may be much more difficult to claim undue hardship as a basis for denying a request to do the same as an accommodation under the ADA,” says Gregg.

It may be wise now to record any inefficiencies that have arisen from recent work-from-home activity. “Waiting to document difficulties until after a request for continuing home-based work is made will seem like an after-the-fact justification,” says Gregg. “That carries much less weight with investigators or courts.”

The ADA legal coin has an obverse side. “Some employers may decide to keep people with underlying conditions, the at-risk folks, out of the office,” says Gregg. “The fear is that if they come back they will be more susceptible to catching the virus with a more serious result.”

Yet excluding at-risk people can be tricky. “Who is at risk?” poses Gregg. “Anyone over the age of 60. So, the employer is tempted to say, ‘Older people cannot come back.’ Well, that means they cannot earn money and that can create an age discrimination issue.”

The decision to exclude people from a back to work program must be based on more than a stereotypical presumption, says Gregg. The ADA’s “direct threat standard” states that employers can exclude workers only when there is actual evidence that they pose direct threats to themselves or others—perhaps because they have told the employer they have an underlying condition or they have a relevant symptom.

The need for a direct threat extends to a requirement for a medical examination. “The employer cannot send someone to the doctor to validate that they are okay to come back to work, if that same requirement was not made for everyone else,” says Gregg. “There needs to be more than a perception of a disability to send a person to the doctor.”

Attorneys caution that pay equivalency is not a defense against discrimination in these cases. “Even if the salary would be the same, the individual made to stay at home may lose out on valuable perks of actually working at the store or office,” says Gregg. “These might include client contacts, important sales meetings, or just generally being ‘in the know.’ They might even miss out on promotions: If you are not seen, you are not considered. So if you pick and choose who stays home, you have to be careful about picking some people and not others.”

The above considerations apply to employers of all sizes: While the ADA covers businesses with 15 or more workers, most states have similar laws for smaller organizations.

Worker complaints

As careful as an employer may be in designing a safe and effective back to work program, it’s likely that not everyone will be pleased.

“Employers should put mechanisms in place to deal with complaints about working conditions, including practices such as social distancing to ensure the safety of the work environment,” says Evans. “Some people may feel the employer has not gone far enough or has not enforced the rules appropriately. Employers need to be ready to make necessary changes and ensure there is no retaliation against people who file complaints. This is important from the standpoint of both employee relations and whistleblower laws.”

Managers and supervisors, too, should receive special training on the new workplace rules and how to respond if anyone complains about them or refuses to cooperate. A point person can help. “One way to minimize risks is to establish a reopening coordinator who understands all of the moving parts of a back to work program,” says Evans. “It’s good to have someone who makes sure people understand the rules and their responsibilities.”

A positive tone

Creating a safe store is one thing. Building the trust of employees is another. People must understand that everything possible has been done to protect their health and safety.

“Transparent communication is critical right now,” says Hagaman. “Employers need to prevent confusion among their work teams by answering their questions before they re-enter the workplace.”

Hagaman suggests addressing these questions:  How will you assess the health of your employees prior to walking into the building? Where will your employees find supplies such as face masks and sanitizing wipes? What parts of their workspace will be closed? Will conference rooms and cafeterias remain open? And who will be allowed in the building, and when?

Not the least of challenges is that of communicating the panoply of new procedures to employees who may feel overwhelmed by a long list of to-dos and do-nots. Some employers are sending email broadcasts with answers to such questions. Others are posting informative signs in the workplaces. And others are packing personal protective gear into “goody bags” and handing them out to returning employees.

All such steps can calm fears. And given the negative emotions that have surrounded the COVID-19 outbreak, employers should try to present their communications in a forward-looking spirit. “As people start re-entering the workplace employers might create a return-to-work rally with a positive tone, applauding the performance of the staff in light of everything that has happened,” says Avdoian. “And as things move forward one way to encourage good morale is to ask for volunteers to serve on a committee that addresses staff concerns.”

The pandemic itself might present retailers with the opportunity to retool their operations, finding ways to work more productively and to utilize technology more efficiently. “We should create new policies and procedures in response to the pandemic as we do when faced with any obstacle or challenge in the business world,” says Avdoian. “We are always looking for ways to enhance our services. This is another opportunity to do so.”

American Equestrian Trade Assn. announces partnership with Dallas Market Center


The American Equestrian Trade Assn. (AETA), the leading organization supporting the English equine industry, and Dallas Market Center, the wholesale marketplace for buyers and sellers from around the world, announce a partnership that will result in a new permanent home for the organization at Dallas Market Center and the Dallas debut of the AETA International Trade Show from Jan. 14-17, 2021.

The AETA International Trade Show is the premier global event showcasing English and Western merchandise from leading manufacturers as well as offering networking and education. The AETA show was previously scheduled for August in the Philadelphia area.

The event will debut in Dallas together with the International Western/English Apparel & Equipment Markets from WESA, the Western & English Sales Assn. Together, these events will create the world’s largest marketplace of equestrian, western and rural lifestyle brands and will serve as the global marketing headquarters for many of the largest manufacturers.

“It has been our mission for the last 14 years to support the equestrian business community,” said Anthony Gatto, president of AETA. “Now is the time to make a positive step for a better future and to unite the best of what we have with new opportunities. We are confident that the Dallas Market Center offers the best location, facilities, and team to manage the organization and create an event that will expand business and serve our industry. They have a tremendous track record of partnership with trade organizations, creating top trade events, and managing a facility that is highly praised for its convenience and customer service.”

“We welcome the opportunity to capitalize on our capabilities to work year-round on a superior AETA show and to manage an important organization that creates better business opportunities,” said Cindy Morris, president and CEO of Dallas Market Center. “Our team, including staff dedicated to AETA, will help deliver loyal and new buyers to expand sales opportunities for AETA members. For the entire equestrian community, this represents a shared commitment to success for the long-term. We are thrilled with the opportunity to create a global destination in Dallas for equestrian lifestyle trade events.”

AETA’s International Trade Show will be located in expo space in the World Trade Center. Permanent showrooms for manufacturers desiring a controlled environment will be located on the 14th floor.

Dallas Market Center is centrally located within a short travel time from any location in the U.S. and Latin America and offers unmatched access to more retailers and manufacturers as well as leading retailers in women’s, men’s, and children’s apparel and accessories, gifts, and home décor.  Dozens of hotels at a range of values are located near the market center as well as world-class restaurants and shopping.

The addition of this trade event further extends Dallas Market Center’s position as the most complete wholesale marketplace in North America for lifestyle products in equestrian and western, apparel and fashion accessories, gifts, home décor, holiday and floral, and lighting.

Founded in 1957, Dallas Market Center is the world’s most complete wholesale marketplace. Within its marketplace of more than five million square feet, retailers from around the globe source products ranging from home furnishings, gifts, decorative accessories and lighting to textiles, fashion accessories and men's, western, women's and children's apparel. With more than 50 trade events each year attended by more than 200,000 retail buyers from all 50 states and 85 countries, Dallas Market Center helps retailers expand business and increase profits. The Dallas Market Center website is available at dallasmarketcenter.com.

Management change at spoga horse


A new director is taking over spoga horse, the leading international trade fair for equestrian sports. From June onward, Ines Rathke will be leaving Koelnmesse to pursue new professional challenges. She will be handing over her tasks as director to Dr. Maria Näther.

"We sincerely thank Ines Rathke for her successful commitment to spoga horse over the past years and wish her every success for the future," stated Catja Caspary, vice president Koelnmesse. "In Dr. Maria Näther, we have found an industry-experienced successor, who at the same time is also well-acquainted with the needs of our customers."

Näther has a doctorate in agricultural economics and already accompanied the organization and operation of equestrian sports events prior to joining Koelnmesse. In her capacity as VIP account manager, she has been developing the TOP visitor management of the food and foodtec trade fairs of Koelnmesse since 2016. She will be able to fall back on this expertise in her new role as director, because effective matchmaking is gaining more and more significance in an increasingly digitalized world.

FEEDSTUFFS IN FOCUS: Business insurance in pandemic times


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on the economy, many businesses have been forced to furlough staff or close their doors altogether. Even companies able to stay afloat during this time have experienced financial setbacks from which they will take years to recover. While government subsidies are available for many businesses, available funds run out quickly and can take weeks or months to make it to the business owner. In the meantime, businesses who can’t wait are forced to make tough decisions. 

Also in the news of late have been stories on how businesses thought they were covered from an insurance standpoint but it turns out they were not. COVID-19 and other such business slowdowns are not among those things that generally trigger payment under a typical business policy.

Tim_Craig_Headshot.jpgJames Allen Insurance’s CEO Tim Craig saw a need to cover businesses experiencing this hurt and launched the Pandemic Insurance Policy in March. The policy covers added out-of-pocket expenses and lost revenue associated with the outbreak of disease. Feedstuffs editor Sarah Muirhead caught up with Craig this week to talk insurance and COVID-19.

He noted that while the nation’s food and hospitality establishments have been hit the hardest, some farmers, agribusinesses and, of course, packing plants also have felt the strain. Among other things, Craig noted that his company’s new pandemic policy got its roots from animal disease policy coverage created by the company several years back to protect livestock producers in the unfortunate outbreak of African swine fever and several cattle diseases. 


For more information on this and other stories, visit Feedstuffs online.
Follow Feedstuffs on Twitter @Feedstuffs, or join the conversation via Facebook.   

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New therapy could combat persistent joint infections in horses

Dr. Lauren Schnabel, North Carolina State University NCSU horse joint therapy.jpg
Researchers took their blood to develop a super-concentrated platelet-rich plasma lysate that, when teamed with antibiotics, can eradicate bacterial biofilms common in joint infections. This therapy could potentially save horses from years of pain and could also be applied to other species, including humans and dogs.

A new therapy could combat persistent joint infections in horses, potentially saving them from years of pain, based on Morris Animal Foundation-funded research at North Carolina State University.

The North Carolina State researchers developed a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) lysate that, when teamed with antibiotics, can eradicate bacterial biofilms common in joint infections, the Morris Animal Foundation said in an announcement. The therapy could also be applied to other species, including humans and dogs.

The team published their findings in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.

"This could really provide a more effective way of clearing a joint infection quickly so that the horse does not suffer long-term consequences of joint damage," said Dr. Lauren Schnabel, associate professor of equine orthopedic surgery at North Carolina State University, a primary investigator of the study. "For any horse's well-being, it's important to make them as comfortable as possible, as quickly as possible to avoid laminitis and other complications."

Horses are more prone to joint infections than other animals due to their predominantly outdoor, active lifestyles coupled with a lack of tissue protection over the joints of their lower limbs, the announcement explained. Any wound near a joint, regardless of its size, requires immediate veterinary attention. Left untreated, they can be life-threatening.

Current joint infection treatment usually involves surgical flushing of the joint and giving antibiotics. Despite aggressive care, about 6-10% of horses die as a result of the infection or associated complications. For horses that survive, more than 50% will suffer from chronic arthritis for the rest of their lives, the foundation said.

A common complication that impedes successful treatment is the tendency for some bacteria to form biofilms in the joint. A biofilm is a sticky, slimy shield that forms around bacteria in synovial fluid. They become so large that immune cells can't attack them properly. Biofilms also render the bacteria metabolically inactive, which makes them more resistant to antibiotics.

To create their PRP lysate, the research team took blood from the small herd of horses at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine and isolated the platelets, which are known to aid in healing. Then, the researchers packed 50 times the number of platelets that would be found in an equal amount of blood into their product. For comparison, typical PRP, for orthopedic and sports medicine purposes, is created by concentrating platelets usually up to three times what is found in a comparable amount of blood, the announcement said.

The team felt that this super-concentrated product would be better at stopping infections than conventional PRP.

The team lysed the platelets to release antimicrobial peptides -- proteins that attack bacteria. The researchers separated out the antimicrobial peptides, and then, after testing those against common bacteria, all the horses' peptides were pooled together for one lysate product. The team collected synovial fluid from the horses' knees with harmless taps. The fluid was seeded with bacteria in the laboratory and allowed to grow biofilms. Finally, researchers tested three methods to attack the biofilms: antibiotics alone, lysate alone and a combination of antibiotics and lysate.

According to the Morris Animal Foundation, the researchers found that antibiotics alone were completely ineffective, and the lysate alone significantly decreased the bacterial load. However, the antibiotic and lysate combination completely eradicated the biofilms and bacteria.

Schnabel said her team has used this experimental therapy on horses with great results. Because the process to create the lysate is both complicated and expensive, her team is trying to find a way to produce it more efficiently. They also are trying to identify the exact peptides responsible for the antibacterial properties, so they can be synthesized and production scaled up to reach the greatest number of horses, the foundation said.

"This is really a critical piece of evidence to show this is a therapy with enormous potential to make traditional antimicrobials more effective," said Dr. Janet Patterson-Kane, Morris Animal Foundation chief scientific officer. "Clearing bacteria more quickly and effectively from infected joints is a much-needed piece of the solution for this complex disease."

If successful, this approach also has translational potential to help other species, including people. For example, biofilm formation and infection are a significant problem for people with metal implants, such as those used in joint replacement surgeries. Dr. Jessica Gilbertie, first author on this publication and former Morris Animal Foundation fellowship trainee under the mentorship of Schnabel, is working on making PRP lysate from other species, including dogs, because they also can suffer from biofilm formations related to surgical procedures.

Vesicular stomatitis outbreaks detected in horses

Fuse/Thinkstock wild horses running in sage

The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) reported that vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) was confirmed April 23 in horses on two Starr County, Texas, premises.

TAHC said the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed the virus as the New Jersey serotype, and these mark the first cases of VSV in Texas this year.

According to TAHC, the 2020 U.S. outbreak of VSV began April 13, when NVSL confirmed the first VSV-positive premises in New Mexico, with subsequent cases detected in Cochise County, Ariz., and now the Starr County, Texas, premises.

The New Mexico Livestock Board noted that it had detected VSV (Indiana serotype) cases in Dona Ana and Sierra counties. The Arizona Department of Agriculture also indicated its case was of the Indiana serotype.

The horses in Texas were tested after the individual owners observed lesions on the horses’ muzzles and contacted their veterinary practitioners. The animals are being monitored, and the premises will remain under state quarantine until 14 days from the onset of lesions in the last affected animal on the premises, TAHC said.

“VSV is spread by direct contact with infected animals or spread by insect vectors like black flies, sand flies and biting midges,” TAHC executive director Dr. Andy Schwartz said. "The epidemiological investigations on the VSV-positive premises indicate that VSV-infected insects are likely the source of infection on these premises. Biosecurity measures and vector mitigation have been instituted to reduce the spread of the virus."

Vesicular stomatitis is a viral disease that primarily affects horses and cattle and occasionally swine, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas, TAHC explained. VSV can cause blisters and sores in the mouth and on the tongue, muzzle, teats or hooves of susceptible animals. Additional signs of infection include fever, drooling or frothing at the mouth, reluctance to eat, lameness or laminitis if lesions develop around the coronary band. Lesions usually will heal in two or three weeks, and most animals recover with supportive care by a veterinarian.

VSV prevention

Even with the best defensive measures, VSV still can infect a herd, so TAHC provided the following tips to help protect livestock:

  • Control biting flies (with fly spray, fly traps, maintaining clean pens, etc.).
  • Keep equine animals stalled or under a roof to reduce exposure to flies.
  • Feed and water stock from individual buckets.
  • Don’t visit a ranch that’s under quarantine for VSV. Wait until the animals have healed.
  • Restrict nose-to-nose contact between horses from other premises.
  • Clean and disinfect tack and equipment between uses.

2019 outbreak

Last year, a large VSV outbreak began on June 21, 2019, when NVSL in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the first VSV-positive (Indiana serotype) premises in Kinney County, Texas, according to a follow-up report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Over the summer months, seven other states — New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah and Kansas — subsequently reported NVSL-confirmed cases, APHIS noted.

In total, APHIS said 1,144 VSV-affected premises were identified (672 suspected and 472 confirmed positive) in 2019, with 1,128 of these premises housing only clinically affected equine species, 15 premises housing only affected cattle and one premises housing both affected cattle and horses.

According to APHIS, in 2019:

  • Colorado had the most identified affected premises, at 693 in 38 counties.
  • Texas identified 172 affected premises in 37 counties.
  • Wyoming identified 149 affected premises in 11 counties.
  • New Mexico identified 76 affected premises in 12 counties.
  • Utah identified 26 affected premises in six counties.
  • Nebraska identified 26 affected premises in five counties.
  • Oklahoma identified one affected premises in one county.
  • Kansas identified one affected premises in one county.

All 2019 VSV-infected or suspect premises in all affected states have completed the quarantine period and have been released, APHIS said.

In a fact sheet, APHIS explained that vesicular stomatitis is a reportable disease and is one of several diseases with similar clinical signs. One of those, foot and mouth disease, is a foreign animal disease that would cause devastating economic consequences if it is found in the U.S.

APHIS said the only way to tell these diseases apart is through laboratory testing, so it’s important to test any animal with clinical signs quickly to identify which disease is causing illness.

Farrier interventions influence horse symmetry

Shutterstock horse silhouette at sunset_shutterstock_62315617.jpg

A peer-reviewed study by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in the U.K. examined the effect of farrier interventions -- road nails, in this case -- and demonstrated the impact on horse movement symmetry, including weight bearing and propulsion.

Key findings from the study, which was undertaken as part of RVC’s Graduate Diploma in Equine Locomotor Research, show that while there are many different shoes on the market and various approaches to shoeing and trimming, it’s important to look at the effect of changes in "shoeing" on the symmetry of movement, rather than the other way round, RVC said.

This evidence-based research can then be combined with owner and trainer observations to help make more informed decisions.

The study, which used tungsten road nails, indicated that pelvic movement symmetry in horses trotting on tarmac can be altered by the application of a road nail to the lateral heel of a hindlimb shoe, RVC said.

The researchers explained that subtle asymmetry in pelvic movement can be quantified as the difference in displacement amplitude between the left and right tuber coxae (hip hike difference), and the changes in pelvic movement symmetry — observed as a function of applying a road nail — can be explained by increased weight bearing and propulsion in the hind limb with the road nail.

Using wireless inertial measurement units, which were fitted to the poll, withers, sacrum and left and right tuber coxae of each horse, the results indicate that this form of data collection provides a valuable method of evaluating small movement changes of the horse in reaction to different shoeing protocols and shoe types, RVC said.

Movement symmetry is an important parameter influencing longevity and performance and can be measured irrespective of the surface (firm or soft) the horse is worked on, the announcement said.

Lee Collins and Peter Day, graduates of the course, worked alongside academics at RVC to conduct the research. The project was the culmination of the pair’s work on the course, which offers professional farriers the chance to develop the skill set necessary to produce original research and increase the evidence base behind farriery.

“Within the farriery industry, we talk a lot about the changes we can achieve with different shoeing and foot trimming protocols, and most, if not all, is anecdotal and purely based on subjective visual observation,” Day, who has worked as a farrier at RVC for more than 20 years, said. “As part of my diploma, I wanted to research something that was relevant to farriery and could be done outside the laboratory. My hope is that, having gained this qualification, I would like to undertake a master’s degree and will carry out further research to evaluate the use of traction devices and shoe designs for grip and propulsion. It is my intention to relate this work on upper-body movement to the level of the hoof.”

The full paper, "The Effect of Tungsten Road Nails on Locomotor Biomechanics in Horses Moving on Tarmac Surface," was published in The Journal of Equine Veterinary Science.

Plan ahead for equine feed needs, but not too far ahead

Photo by Steve Patton UKy horses.jpg
Buying a month's worth of feed is probably too much.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of overbuying of food, and this is not only at the grocery stores. Horse owners may have an urge to buy more feed than usual.

Bob Coleman, extension equine specialist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food & Environment, urged horse owners to take a step back and think before making extra feed purchases.

“I can certainly understand that horse owners may be a bit worried about the feed supply,” he said. “I think it’s always smart, not just during a pandemic, to think ahead and try to anticipate your normal feed needs. Maybe plan to buy a little bit more than usual, but don’t go overboard.”

Thinking about feed needs in terms of a week or two at a time will help horse owners feel confident they have enough to cover those needs, he added.

“If the truck delivers feed on say Tuesday, think about what you need for a week to 10 days and add a little buffer for unknowns like weather, plant delays, things like that,” Coleman said. “Also, you need to think about where you’re going to store any excess feed.”

Bagged feed needs to be off the ground and dry to keep it safe from any critters and from becoming moldy, he said. Also, make sure horses don’t have easy access to feed storage areas.

“You want to make sure you store the oldest bag on top, so that you use it first,” he said. “Or if you use bulk feeders, make sure the oldest feed is on the bottom, so you use it first. This is just a best management practice, so you can make sure you maintain freshness.”

Buying a month’s worth of feed is probably too much. With all the COVID-19-related closures, horses are not as active as usual and that reduces their energy expenditures and, ultimately, the amount of feed they require, Coleman said.

“Work with your feed supplier or contact your local extension agent if you need help determining your horse’s nutritional needs,” Coleman said. “They may need more hay and less grain right now. It’s also good to ask the feed supplier what their COVID-19 procedures are right now. They may not be able to load the feed for you, if you pick it up yourself.”

Coleman emphasized that planning for horse’s feed needs is not something unique to pandemic times.

“You always need to be thinking ahead about what you need, where you’re going to get it and how you’re going to store it,” he said. “No one wants to run out, but you also don’t want to get into a situation where you have to throw out feed.”