Saturday, November 17, 2007

Do not scare the horses

Strange how things turn out.I would never have imagined that I would be out in the middle of nowhere vaccinating horses anywhere, ever, let alone in the stinking hot environment of Dubbo NSW.

Australia is fighting an outbreak of equine influenza- a virus the country has been free from until an incident with a stallion from Tokyo and poor vigilance at a quarantine station near Sydney ( same prison james dog was incarcerated in).

Now it is spreading like wildfire, and the government has decided to attempt an eradication program, by ring vaccinating and containment. It is not a serious disease, and in the UK and USA horses are vaccinated , but with a general election next week I suspect it is a political move to woo the rural voters. There are tight movement restrictions, and a mandatory vaccination regime has been introduced in many areas.

Quite honestly is is like pissing in the wind, with wild horses escaping the vaccine, illegal horse movements, and over such a vast area it makes the foot and mouth control in the UK look like a walk in the park.

Costing approx $500 per horse, fully government funded, it could be a very expensive waste of time, but it gives us vets something to do.

Unfortunately full biosecurity measures need to be enforced, to avoid any inadvertent virus spread, so we have to park outside the property and don boiler suits with hoods, face masks, gloves and wellies before entering on foot. No mean feat in 35 degrees- the longest distance encountered from gate/mailbox to the property was 9 km.Needless to say certain rules were modified as we went along. The old couple at the aforementioned property proudly told us the house was so secluded due to its previous use as a marijuana farm!

The equine influenza diet is proving more successful than The Atkins Diet- chasing wild horses around paddocks in the gear in these temperatures very amenable to weight loss, with no gym subscription to pay.

James has been doing the work on and off for a few weeks now, and was being paid by the DPI (Department of Primary Industries) who provided him with 'helpers', ranging from jockeys and farriers ( who are unable to work due to the movement ban and biosecurity issues) to disinterested illiterate teenagers. He has now gone freelance ( better pay ) and is working through a local practice, so needed a helper who was experienced in handling horses and able to tackle all the paperwork.Instead he got me.

Horses are big and scary, my views on that remain unchanged.However, how the Hell do you expect any animal to behave when 2 people dressed like that traipse across a field towards them armed with large needles and with malice aforethought.

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