USDA Voluntary CEMO Stallion Testing Program - New CEM Situation Update
In February 2010 USDA announced a cost-sharing voluntary CEM testing program for stallions resident in the USA. The intent was primarily to determine if there was an absence of the causative organism Taylorella equigenitalis in the domestic herd, or if it was found to be present to facilitate traceback ability and determine degree of prevalence. In order to achieve this level of testing, USDA shares the primary cost of the evaluation covering provision of swab and shipping materials, shipping costs and all lab costs for growing and reading the resulting cultures. The stallion owner is solely responsible for the veterinary costs of the swab collection (typically a call-out fee and time for the collection process which should require only a few minutes).
With the ongoing CEM outbreak that had the index case in Kentucky in December of 2008, the origin of which has yet to be established, and the newest threat presented with an imported Arabian stallion presenting a positive result for a strain of T. equigenitalis not related to the Kentucky incidence, American breeders have to take very seriously the need to identify possible positive carriers and ensure elimination of the organism from the resident horse population. Until this has been achieved and proven, restrictions related to cross-border shipments of semen and horses which have in some instances had a tremendous negative impact on available markets - the Canadian market being particularly affected - will remain in place. Many US stallion owners have simply ceased offering semen sales from their stallions to Canada owing to time and cost restraints of achieving the required paperwork in an adequate manner.
There is little doubt that the possibility of there still being CEMO-positive stallions unidentified in the horse population exists. This makes participation in the USDA testing scheme even more enticing, as if one is unfortunate enough to have a stallion test positive by USDA through this voluntary scheme, USDA will pick up all the subsequent treatment costs of the stallion including test-breeding of mares! The same does not happen if one is identified as having a CEMO-positive stallion without having participated in the voluntary scheme, for example through a traceback from other positive animals identified in the ongoing investigations. From an ethical standpoint, voluntary participation is of value because - as with EIA ("Coggin's") testing, the more horses that are tested, the less chance there is of having an unidentified positive (infectious) animal in the resident population.
More details of this voluntary testing scheme are available from your local USDA office, or in the .pdf articles to be downloaded from the USDA's website here . Note that the scheme is scheduled to close at the end of August 2010, so a rapid involvement is necessary! There are some restrictions as to what stallions may be eligible (for example stallions already tested within the last 6 month, or that are known contact animals of the current outbreaks are not eligible), but it certainly behoves USA breeders to either participate in this USDA scheme or follow Britain's HBLB protocols, although of course this latter route will cost more!
The current USDA update on the new instance of CEM in the Arabian stallion located in California indicates that the stallion was imported into the United States in March 2010 from a country not known to be affected by CEM. It is not yet known whether the imported stallion was positive at the time of his importation or was exposed after importation. In addition to the one positive stallion, another 22 horses have been exposed to T. equigenitalis through contact either with the stallion or other contact animals, the same facility or through shipped semen. The 23 horses are located in or are being traced to 7 States, including 6 exposed or positive stallions and 17 exposed mares.
Hope the above clarifies some confusion, including some of my own .
I reviewed the program with my vet and we decided I had nothing to gain from it. The state dept. of ag was looking for 50 stallions and could not expalin many details of costs and where treatment might be if a stallion were found positive. Nor could they give me statistics on false positives. Actually not all costs would be covered. We agreed that if this were a pilot combined with an update of the obsolete testing prgram for CEM for imported stallions we would participate. But the live cover testing is still required. They need to come into the 21st century and drop that. My stallion was negative on import and no mare has had a problem after breeding --all AI. Someone would have had an issue. So my particpation is only for the gov't. to show numbers to their trade partners. ( yes they admitted that verbally, it's a farce.) It won't prove anything or test any hypothesis. Is is just to say "see we have done all these tests and all is fine now." Without that really being true. My vet voted no and I was leaning that way myself, so I didn't.
I reviewed the program with my vet and we decided I had nothing to gain from it.
The same can be said - and indeed is by some - for Coggin's testing against EIA: "my horse doesn't have EIA so why do I have to get his tested" and the other old saw "an EIA test is only as good as the moment it's taken". The fact remains that the more horses that are EIA tested, the more chance there is of an unknown positive reactor being identified and removed from the population, and the same thing applies with this CEM testing program. There is little doubt that there is a good chance there are still positive horses unidentified out there - the original source has not yet been identified, so one cannot say with certainty that there are no more animals involved in the '08 "Kentucky" outbreak - and this program has the potent to identify one or more.
Part of a veterinarian's job is to protect the health of animals, so to have a veterinarian such as yours speak out against a program that has the potential to positively impact the national health of animals is tragic.
Actually not all costs would be covered.
True - as noted above, the veterinary costs for your vet to attend are not covered. All else however is. Including treatment costs if the stallion is unfortunate enough to be found to be positive.
But the live cover testing is still required. They need to come into the 21st century and drop that.
Interestingly, in the '08 outbreak, at least two of the stallions tested negative on a first set of culture swabs, but positive on test breedings. In other words, relying on a culture of swabs alone would have meant that those stallions would have been returned to the breeding population still positive. Similarly, there have been stallions that have been imported that tested negative on an initial swab but positive on breeding. Test breeding is therefore a very important part of the negative confirmation process. One of the biggest problems in that situation is that there are short-sighted people that aren't really interested in the big picture of national biosecurity but are only prepared to look as far as their own animals and wash (scrub) the stallion's genitalia prior to testing in an attempt to ensure a negative result. That scrubbing if performed correctly may of course clear any T. equigenitalis presence (it is after all part of the treatment process), but if incorrectly performed may simply suppress that bacterium temporarily only to have it re-emerge later. Until we can guarantee an end of human thought process failing we shouldn't consider an end to test breedings!
One area where I will say that USDA is lacking in their testing is in not using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing techniques, which would speed up testing and is being used elsewhere in the world.
My stallion was negative on import and no mare has had a problem after breeding --all AI. Someone would have had an issue. So my particpation is only for the gov't. to show numbers to their trade partners. ( yes they admitted that verbally, it's a farce.) It won't prove anything or test any hypothesis.
There are a couple of issues here. Firstly, the incidence of transference of the CEMO via AI has been clearly demonstrated in the recent ('08) outbreak to be very low - 3 out of 723 mares bred I believe is the statistic - so statistically one can see that if your stallion had bred fewer than 241 mares, he could still be positive (although of course "there are lies, damned lies and statistics"! ). Secondly, if your stallion has been collected at a facility where other untested stallions have also been collected, there is a chance that he could have been contaminated - that is the primary transmission route for how the index farms in the '08 outbreak ended up with 23 positive stallions, not by live-cover. Thirdly, although showing numbers to trade partners may mean nothing to you, for those stallion owners who are struggling with the requirements for shipping semen to Canada, a relaxation of those restrictive regulations because healthy numbers are being shown to trade partners would mean a lot!
It is possible that your stallion would not have had the potential to have been infected, but as I hope can be seen from the above, there are in fact quite a few areas where people who believe that their stallion could not possible have become infected may be wrong. A post that erroneously or intentionally overlooks those possibilities and has the potential to discourage other stallion owners from participating in this potentially money saving and protective program is less than beneficial to the USA breeding industry and I cannot let the points missed go unchallenged...
The fact remains that until a better control is obtained on the current CEM situations and/or tighter controls or changes in the CEM testing importation process (and they are being looked at) to avoid a repetition occur, the USA is going to be restricted from shipping semen out of the country. While that may mean nothing to persons shipping solely domestically at this time, it does have a huge impact on those shipping out of the country - and if CEM did become a big enough issue one would also be likely to see restrictions placed domestically as well. Already Kentucky has placed restrictions on stallions coming in from Wisconsin. So although this testing program may seem unimportant to you at first glance, let me assure you that whether you participate or not, it is important on a number of levels related to getting our CEM-free status back!
People who disgree are not necessarily wrong nor is their speaking out tragic. I found the documents on this program ill written and supemely unconvincing. ( I have the full notebook the staff is given.) Only a few bullet points were given at the very end regarding why stallion owners might want to participate and they were lame. Only imported stallions were sought too. The staff was unconvincing and did not believe in it either. They could not even tell me where a stallion would be treated or if it would be put in quarantine if found to be positive. More ways to test need to be found. By the way, if swabs don't work how would this voluntary testing be worth a darn? If they do work then no live cover is needed-one or the other! They are just trying to flood hte partners with nuymbers ot look good, not to actually be 100% free. Other opinions are valid too.
Just adding my 2 cents worth... for those of you who are obviously not fans of this USDA funded testing.. what are your ideas to ensure that the transmittence of this disease is controlled? For various reasons that you have mentioned above you do not seem to agree with this program and have found multiple faults with it. Would you be so kind as to suggest a better method to encourage stallion owners to test for CEM? I agree that other opinions are valid but where is the constructive criticism? What is your plan to eradicate this disease.. by NOT testing at all? That hardly seems to ensure a favourable outcome. I understand there are limitations to this program but it is a far cry better than the attitude that because it is not perfect it is not worth considering.
Those who say "Money can't buy happiness" never bought their child a pony