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20th December 2006

Drought Problem!! – Foal deaths on increase

The insurance industry reports that this season has seen a 25% increase in the number of insured foal deaths.

This in a season where broodmare stud book numbers have increased for the first time in twenty years, senior veterinary surgeons in the industry say that there appears to be no one cause for this years deaths. However, several long term Stud Managers have the opinion that the extremely dry drought conditions with the resulting increase in dust in the air is the major cause of the increases in foal deaths.

Australian largest bloodstock insurers Logan Livestock Insurance Agency boss Bob Logan says that up until this season the better farm management and skilled farm hands had contributed to the best foal results ever for the insurance industry.

However this season the situation had been reversed and he can only put it down to the terrible climatic conditions currently in Australia.

Dr Ian Nielson, whose veterinary practice called Rowes Lagoon Veterinary Centre near Goulburn, recently made the following comment about horse health and welfare in his district which he said could be contributed to the drought. One of his many observations was the there seemed to be an increase in inflammatory airway disease over the past couple of years. Not so much from stabling or simply the dust but due, he thought, to the feeding of doubtful hay and environmental presence of faecal contaminated dust. Allergic rhinitis and head shaking have also been more apparent. He said water intake for horses has varied as dam water has run out and horses have taken some time to acclimatise to new water supplies.

Broodmare numbers peaked in 1987 at 43,000 said Keeper of the Stud Book Michael Ford and he added that the current number of foals is expected to match that of 10 years ago. This trend indicates that the Australian breeding industry is brimming with confidence. This he said is despite the adverse drought and climatic conditions which most breeders seem to be adjusting to.

Mr Ford also said that it is not only the larger breeders who are surviving under extreme conditions but the smaller breeders especially those with one or two mares are still proportionally strong holding 42% of all broodmares as was the case in 1995. This group he said comprises 82% of all breeders.

If the adverse insurance industry current foal figures are to continue then management techniques in dealing with climatic conditions is going to play an important part in the immediate future of the industry.
Article from The Sportsman Friday 15 December 2006