A comparison of unheated loose housing with stables on the respiratory health of weaned-foals in cold winter conditions: an observational field-study

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http://hdl.handle.net/10138/228073

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Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica. 2017 Oct 26;59(1):73

Title: A comparison of unheated loose housing with stables on the respiratory health of weaned-foals in cold winter conditions: an observational field-study
Author: Junkkari, Reija; Simojoki, Heli; Heiskanen, Minna-Liisa; Pelkonen, Sinikka; Sankari, Satu; Tulamo, Riitta-Mari; Mykkänen, Anna
Publisher: BioMed Central
Date: 2017-10-26
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/228073
Abstract: Abstract Background Newly weaned horses in Finland are often moved to unheated loose housing systems in which the weanlings have free access to a paddock and a shelter. This practice is considered to be good for the development of young horses. The daily temperatures can stay below − 20 °C in Finland for several consecutive weeks during the winter season. However, the effect of unheated housing in a cold climatic environment on the respiratory health of weanlings under field conditions has not been studied before. This investigation was an observational field-study comprising 60 weanlings among 11 different voluntary participant rearing farms in Finland. Weanlings were either kept in unheated loose housing systems (n = 36) or in stables (n = 24) and were clinically examined on two separate occasions 58 days apart in cold winter conditions. Results The odds of clinical respiratory disease were lower in the older foals (loge days); OR = 0.009, P = 0.044). The plasma fibrinogen concentration was higher when the available space (m2/weanling) in the sleeping hall was smaller (P = 0.014) and it was lower when the sleeping hall was not insulated (P = 0.010). The plasma fibrinogen concentrations at the second examination were lower with a body condition score above 3 (P = 0.070). Standardbreds kept in loose housing systems had a lower body condition score than Finnhorses or Standardbreds kept in stables at both examinations (P = 0.026 and P = 0.007, respectively). Haemoglobin level was lower in weanlings in loose housing systems compared to their counterparts at the first examination (P = 0.037). Finnhorses had higher white blood cell count than Standardbreds at first (P = 0.002) and at the second examination (P = 0.001). Conclusions Keeping weanling horses in cold loose housing systems does not seem to increase the occurrence of respiratory disease, but special attention should be focused on ventilation, air quality and feeding-practices. Our field study data suggest it might be advantageous to keep Standardbred foals born late in the season in a stable over the Finnish winter.
Subject: Cold-winter loose-housing
Respiratory disease
Stables
Weaned-foals


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