2018 Equine Health Association (EHA) Chairman’s Report.
This past year the EHA Committee has met formally as a group in Wellington on three occasions. Wellington works well as a meeting venue not only as it is a central location but also because it provides easy access for the various MPI groups we are constantly dealing with to attend for discussion and updates. I thank NZ Thoroughbred Racing and the NZ Veterinary Association for the use of their boardrooms.
The last year has seen positive movement in several of the projects that the EHA have been progressing.
I have mentioned previously that as joint registrants, with the Racing Board, of the genetically modified (GMO) Equine Influenza Vaccine, Proteqflu, we applied to alter its conditions of registration. We originally successfully applied to the Environmental Risk Management Authority in 2008 to conditionally import the vaccine following the Australian EI incursion. The conditions were simply that it could be used in the face on an incursion under MPI instruction or where the use of this particular vaccine was a requirement of an importing country.
Our concern was that based on epidemiology models if the vaccine in not used within several weeks it is perhaps no more effective in limiting an incursion than movement control. Approximately 2,500 doses of a killed EI vaccine are presently used in NZ annually principally on horses being exported to Hong Kong and Singapore. We wished to have the registration conditions of Proteqflu changed so that it could become the vaccine of choice for use on horses for export. The rationale being that this change would justify a larger number of vaccine doses being held in NZ. Based on a four year expiry rollover this could equate to 10,000 doses being held within the Provet Auckland Transitional Storage Facility. To achieve this goal we again had to make an application to the now Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) formerly ERMA, confused yet?! This application was approved last year but as a condition of registration under section 23 of the ACVM Act an Operating Plan (OP) covering all aspects of its importation, storage, distribution, use and monitoring of vaccinated horses etc. must be developed. This OP has recently been lodged with the ACVM and we await their response. The OP has a requirement that all Veterinarians administering the GMO vaccine be MPI approved. To gain this approval a veterinarian will need to demonstrate that he/she has been trained on the controls placed on the use of the vaccine and been informed of their obligations in dealing with the vaccine. We are currently planning the required session for equine veterinarians that can be an agenda item at the regional informal Continuing Education seminars periodically held.
I have described in previous reports the equine disease surveillance project (Vetintel) being progressed by the EHA. This is based on real time data being collected anonymously from equine practices across the country. It is a large ambitious project and requires the cooperation of equine veterinary practices. There are a number of veterinary software accounting systems being used across the country and much work is required to allow real time access to these to retrieve the information. It will also require a commonality of diagnostic codes, the Royal Veterinary College have allowed access to their system of coding but much work is required to develop practical simple coding acceptable to NZ practitioners. This project is underlined by the premise that an understanding of disease/injury patterns on a national basis is seen as a great adjunct to equine welfare by providing factual real time information on emergence and significance of disease/injury syndromes. Further this information will be available to guide potential areas of concern that would benefit from investment in research. At present our only knowledge of disease syndromes are hearsay and the MPI Surveillance Journal which is based on laboratory data only. There has been much support throughout the industry for the project with the EHA representative bodies agreeing to an increase in their annual contribution. Funding has also been attracted from the NZERF, the Equine Trust and MPI. Endorsement has also been received from the NZ Veterinary Association Board and the Equine Veterinary Association. As I mentioned earlier this is a large ambitious project and much thanks must go to EHA Executive Adviser Trish Pearce who continues to put in a huge effort to keep the initiative progressing.
MPI have been somewhat distracted over the last year with a number of disease incursions stretching their resources. However in October 2017 we did manage to sign our first equine Operational Agreement (OA) with them. This was a Readiness OA which as expected by the name sets out how we will both work together in what we call “peace time” on a number of equine projects to be ready for a response should the worst happen. We saw the Vetintel project as being a perfect fit as part of this OA and fortunately Director General of Agriculture Martyn Dunn also saw the merit when we met with him. As a consequence of this meeting and under his instruction MPI have revisited the initiative and have since agreed to joint fund a pilot project under the OA to determine whether the project will deliver against MPI’s surveillance priorities. This covers the geographical spread of practices recruited, timeline between veterinary visit and case entry into Vetintel, integration of coding with present MPI coding and assurance that the system will collect data from what are deemed to be higher risk horses, e.g. recently imported and those returning from international competition.
We have recently seen the first package of the new Animal Welfare Regulations released. EHA were consulted several times through the process as the regulations were formulated. The regulations released in this first package relate to the definition of the horse family (equid), regulations in relation to tethering, use of equipment that may injure a horse and not striking a horse on its head. There is also the regulation relating to castration of horses only being carried out by a veterinarian or supervised veterinary student. Those who have read the new regulations will notice that the poor donkey has been specifically excluded from this castration paragraph. I have however been furnished with an explanation. During the development process donkeys unfortunately were left off the draft horse castration regulation when it went out for public consultation. This meant that MPI were then unable to take this regulation (pertaining to donkeys) through the rest of the process / to cabinet for approval. It will however be included in the next batch of regulations that are being developed. These will also include significant surgical, reproductive and dental procedures.
In December along with MPI Senior Adviser Animal Imports Janessa Brown and EHA Committeeman Greg Northcott, Air-Freight Manager NZ Bloodstock, I attended an Equine Disease Free Zone Conference held in Hong Kong. This was held in association with the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Sha Tin International Race Meeting and followed the Annual International Federation of Horse Racing Association’s (IFHA) meeting with international racing veterinary attendees present. The “Conference” was largely to politically introduce the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s new Conghua training Centre in Mainland China with much of the morning spent signing MOU’s with the various Mainland China entities involved. HKJC representatives described the development of the Conghua Training Centre project with its “biosecure” transport corridor and presentations from several Mainland China laboratories were also included. A visit to the training centre followed at the end of the day, which involved a 5 ½ hour bus journey across the border. As can be imagined the facility was very impressive being sited in what was once a mountain valley, this valley was flattened and converted to the present site by simply relocating a mountain to the valley floor. The site is surrounded by bush-clad mountains with a series of several high security fences on the perimeters. Hong Kong Island remains financially dependent on a thriving racing industry thus the maintenance of biosecurity at the facility and the transport between is a primary focus with measures in place to mitigate the associated risks. There are now a significant number of horses being repatriated to NZ from Hong Kong thus as with any international imports we are forever mindful of our biosecurity risk, at present with the existing quarantine measures it is felt that this risk has not increased. The requirement remains that any horse intended for export from Hong Kong to NZ must have been resident in Hong Kong for 6 months before it is eligible to enter pre-export isolation.
Ever since we were confronted with the concept of a Government Industry Agreement (GIA) which led to the sharing of responsibility and costs for the biosecurity of the equine industry we have been battling with how the industry could fund this. We have been very fortunate to have the financial support and underwriting of the Racing Board which allowed the fulfillment of Government requirements necessary for signing of the GIA. As we progress through Readiness Programs and Operational Agreements, costs will be incurred; there is also always the threat of costs of a disease incursion which would not be unsubstantial. The next challenge to be confronted and resolved by the EHA is the concept of an industry levy to help meet these responsibilities. Although this subject has been discussed previously on a number of occasions over the next year we will be seeking consultation with both MPI and Industry to help find a solution and resolve this issue.
This last year we were saddened to receive long serving Deputy Chairman EHA and NZ Thoroughbred Breeders representative Michael Martin’s resignation. Michael has been a very sound contributor to the EHA and represented Thoroughbred Breeders with passion. John Fokerd continues the representation of the breeders group.
We welcomed Colin Hall, NZ Thoroughbred Racing’s Team leader-Racing Administration, to our May meeting. Colin is representing NZ Equine Research Foundation and has also picked up the secretarial duties from James Dunne. I thank Colin for the enthusiasm and efficiency he has brought to the role.
Also at our May meeting we welcomed Liz Bishop to the Committee replacing Edward Rennell as Harness Racing NZ’s representative. I wish to record thanks to Edward for his contribution.
Finally it would be remiss of me not to again acknowledge the huge effort of our Executive Adviser Trish Pearce who revels in steering us through the endless bureaucracy involved in so many of our initiatives. Trish will be attending and presenting at the 15th International Symposium of Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics (ISVEE) with an associated workshop in Changmai, Thailand on behalf of the EHA in November. Trish’s presentation is titled “Utilising opportunistic primary care data for equine disease surveillance in New Zealand” which is a further promotion of the EHA’s Vetintel project.