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Cooperation Key to Kentucky Ag Success with COVID Pandemic
Kentucky Ag Connection - 07/31/2020

In an effort to continue to provide educational opportunities to equine enthusiasts in Kentucky despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Horse Council's Kentucky Equine Networking Association (KENA) offered its most recent quarterly meeting via Zoom. Though the traditional, in-person networking portion of the meeting wasn't possible, the informational content of the meeting did not disappoint.

Presented by Dinsmore Equine Law Group, the meeting focused on a topic at the forefront of many Kentuckian's minds: The coronavirus and its impact on the state's signature equine industry. State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout spoke openly about the challenges the agriculture industry faced and continues to face during the pandemic, as well as on how his office worked to minimize the impact of the virus.

Challenges the industry faced included the cancellation of equine events, the impact on interstate travel of horses and the ramifications of guidelines and restrictions on horse farm staff. "Business continuity was paramount," Stout said. "Our goal was to save the breeding season and determine how we were going to do that [safely]."

Stout clarified that the Office of the State Veterinarian (OSV) had no defined role throughout the pandemic; the OSV served and supported the entities it regulates by collaborating and coordinating with both public health and government officials. "We worked to develop procedures and protocols that enabled us to do what we needed to do: care for horses and enable the equine industry to operate while complying with health and safety standards," Stout said.

Once the State's executive orders, rules and regulations had been reviewed and interpreted by the OSV, employees began working with people in the equine industry to formulate appropriate procedures that would allow the ag industry to continue functioning during the pandemic. The office then communicated the expectation of compliance to the industry. Cooperation of all entities was necessary to allow the equine industry to remain in operation during quarantine.

Dealing with disease outbreak is not out of the ordinary for the OSV. "We applied the knowledge of managing equine disease outbreaks to managing the coronavirus," Stout explained. The OSV sought to create ways to better manage the people who interacted with the horses while educating governing authorities, some of whom were unfamiliar with horses and the equine industry.

On March 21, the OSV distributed guidelines and recommendations to breeding sheds on how to interpret Gov. Andy Beshear's order that was issued on March 23. This meant that breeding sheds had already begun implementing compliance protocols before the order was ever issued.

The guidelines recommended by the OSV included:

- Implementation of electronic documentation

- Elimination of extraneous individuals from the shed (drivers and attendants barred from entering)

- Disinfection of lead shank and other breeding equipment

- Implementation of enhanced biosecurity

The OSV also developed guidance on how to safely fulfill daily farm responsibilities. This document was made available to all equine farming operations, veterinary practices, racing and training operations, and other equine businesses. It specified that to remain in compliance, equine operations should:

- Open barn doors for fresh air

- Assign equipment to one barn only

- Disinfect equipment and surfaces people touch regularly

- Submit paperwork electronically

- Limit the number of individuals in a barn

- Communicate as much as possible via phone, email or text

Though no one is sure how fall equestrian events will look, the protocols the OSV created were well received by people in public health and state government, and showed that the equine industry could continue operating safely. "How lucky are we to have a Department of Agriculture that recognizes how important the equine industry is to the state?" Stout asked.

The next KENA meeting will take place virtually on Sept. 1. Sponsors of the educational series include Dinsmore Equine Law Group, Neogen Corporation, WesBanco, University of Louisville College of Business Equine Industry Program, KESMARC Kentucky and the Equine Land Conservation Resource.


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