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Three horses with an overlay stating ‘Backyard Biosecurity, it’s up to all of us’ and ‘Agriculture Victoria’

Edition 13: Horses

In this edition:

Horse owners, trainers and service providers all play a part in preventing the spread of disease.

Having good biosecurity will help protect your horses and keep them and other horses healthy. It will also allow continuation of equestrian activities and help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. This is important as some diseases that infect horses can be passed to people (zoonotic diseases).

This edition will cover some of the good biosecurity practices that you can do to keep your horses safe and reduce the spread of disease.

Register your property

As a horse owner or keeper, you are required, by law, to have a Property Identification Code (PIC) for the property where your horse is kept.

PICs are an important traceability tool used during disease outbreaks, pest incursions and natural disasters. If there’s a flood, fire or disease outbreak we may need to contact you and having a PIC enables us to do that.

The PIC database played a crucial role in communicating with 19,000 registered PIC holders who own horses during the recent investigation into sudden horse deaths on various properties

Watch the video: A simple step for a special friend

What if I agist my horse?
If your horses stay on an agistment property, that property requires a PIC.

Before you arrange agistment for your horses, ask the property owner or service provider if they have a PIC. If yes, they will need to update their PIC information to reflect the number of agisted horses on their property. If not, the horse owner or service provider can apply for a PIC for that parcel of land.

For more information and to access an agistment kit, visit Things you should know about agistment for horses.

Event organisers are responsible for ensuring that properties hosting horse events have a registered PIC and must ensure all horse owners provide PIC details of all horses attending, to enable tracing of horse movements between PICs.

Maintain your PIC
It’s important to keep your PIC data updated if you:

  • Sell your property and/or relocate your horses
  • Change phone number or email address
  • Make changes to other livestock on your property

Review and update your PIC information on the Agriculture Victoria PIC Portal.

Watch the video: Protect your property with a Property Identification Code

More Information

Two horses eating hay
Have a biosecurity plan

A farm or property biosecurity plan helps structure your approach to preventing the introduction and spread of pests, disease, weeds and contaminants to and from the property where your houses are housed.

A farm biosecurity plan should:

  • Describe your responsibilities
  • Outline the disease protocols used on the property
  • Ensure property information and biosecurity measures are quickly accessible, and
  • Enable you to easily communicate your biosecurity procedures to others.

The Horse Venue Biosecurity Workbook on the Farm Biosecurity website contains a number of useful tools, including a self-assessment worksheet with many tips to help develop a farm or property biosecurity plan.

Identify your risks

Biosecurity is about managing risks. Each property is different and faces different challenges, so it is critical to assess the biosecurity risks that are most likely to impact your property. Common risk pathways include:

  • Introduction of livestock – consider any new horse or one returning from a show or event as a potential disease risk. Ideally new, returning or visiting horses should be quarantined separately from your other horses for at least 10 days. Monitor horses daily for signs of ill health and injury, and to ensure they are eating and drinking.
  • Introduction of bedding and feed supplies – feed and bedding should be checked for contaminants, and accompanied by a Commodity Vendor Declaration, where possible.
  • Access points – Promote your biosecurity and hygiene practices through signage at access points. Have facilities and equipment in place for washing and disinfecting shoes and clothing and any other equipment and vehicles that enter your property.
  • Boundaries – Keep boundary fences in good condition. Barriers such as double fencing and tree plantations increase perimeter security
  • Visitors – properties with horses can have a lot of vehicle movements, horses coming and going to and from various events and venues, which can increase risk of disease introduction and spread. Consider having a designated parking areas for visitors and contractors and ensure everyone arrives with clean footwear and clothing.
  • Identify and manage pest animals, which can spread disease. An integrated pest management program should be in place to deter pests. Good drainage and manure management will help prevent insects like mosquitoes and March flies from breeding. Control rodents and keep food in rodent-proof containers. Avoid locating horse operations in swampy areas, near bat colonies or intensive piggeries as these may be carriers of some viral infections that affect horses.
  • Equipment – ensure tack and equipment are kept clean and disinfected between use on different horses.
Three people standing next to a horse

Train yourself, your employees, visitors and agisters in disease prevention, identification and control procedures.

Record Keeping
Close up of person using a laptop showing Agriculture Victoria's Biosecurity home page

Keep records of movements of horses and semen, visitors and feed, bedding, delivery records and animal health treatments so contacts can be traced in the event of a disease outbreak.

Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Action Plan

As part of your farm biosecurity plan, it is recommended to detail actions and responsibilities that are necessary in the event of a suspicion and/or occurrence of emergency animal disease outbreak. Many emergency animal diseases are notifiable, to ensure that relevant authorities know where in the community significant diseases are occurring.

Notifiable diseases

There are various contagious or infectious diseases and conditions which may affect horses that are declared as notifiable diseases for the purpose of the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994. A notifiable disease is one that must be reported within a defined timeframe to agricultural authorities.

Examples of notifiable diseases that can affect horses are included below.

Equine influenza
Equine influenza is a highly contagious virus that can be spread horse to horse or by humans on their skin, clothes and riding equipment.

Hendra virus
Hendra virus can be passed to horses from flying foxes. It can cause severe illness, usually resulting in death. On rare occasions, close contact with infected horses has also caused illness and death in humans.

Hendra has only occurred in horses in QLD and NSW to date, but all areas in Australia where flying foxes and horses co-exist are considered to be at risk. It is recommended to take steps to protect and vaccinate your horses against Hendra virus.

African horse sickness
African horse sickness (AHS) is the most serious known viral disease of horses, resulting in up to 80-90 percent mortality in affected horses. It is an exotic disease which has never been reported in Australia.

Arboviral disease in horses
Arboviral diseases are diseases spread by biting insects and may affect many different species, including horses, water birds and on rare occasions, humans. Arboviral diseases associated with Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus, Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus, West Nile virus (Kunjin strain) and Ross River virus are known to occur in Victoria.

For more information about specific diseases and reporting timeframes, see Notifiable diseases of horses.

Subsidies may be available from Agriculture Victoria for arboviral disease investigations. See SDI Program for more information.

In the event of an emergency...
Herd of horses walking

It is important to plan and be prepared, to ensure the welfare of your horses and livestock during emergency events, such as bushfires or floods.

Prepare an emergency plan, an emergency kit, pick a safe location and consider animal transport.

Prepare for animals that will be evacuated and those who will remain on the property. Keep livestock including horses contained within the property boundaries for the safety of the horses, the community and emergency services.  For the latter, consider preparing a low-risk area in case of bushfire.

For further information visit the following pages on the Agriculture Victoria website:

Refer to the Country Fire Authority for guidance on developing a bushfire survival plan for horses.

Key contacts

  • Visit the VicEmergency website, or download the app, the official Victorian Government app for emergency warnings and information. Set up a user profile and watch zones to receive official warnings and information for areas that interest you or call 1800 226 226.
  • If you suspect an emergency animal disease, call your District Veterinarian or Animal Health Officer by contacting us on 136 186 or to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline 1800 675 888.
Image stating: Report any unusual signs or suspected cases of emergency animal disease immediately. Emergency Animal Disease Hotline: 1800 675 888. The EAD hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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