Hendra jabs hurdle to the horse export trade

SOME trainers are refusing to vaccinate their horses against Hendra, because vaccinated horses will not be accepted into export markets.

Countries including the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Singapore have closed their borders to Hendra-vaccinated horses because blood tests show up as Hendra positive.

Warwick showjumper Dave Goodwin is about to take his top horse to Europe where he may go on to compete in the UAE.

"I wasn't going to vaccinate him because I'm going travelling with him and I didn't want to worry about travel delays," he said.

Mr Goodwin sells horses to China and Japan where a good horse will sell for between $50,000 and $100,000.

Toowoomba trainer, Jay Randall, exports Arabian endurance horses to the UAE at around $30,000 per horse.

"These countries are large markets. It's mainly thoroughbreds and Arabian endurance horses. They won't accept Hendra-vaccinated horses at all," she said.

"Obviously people with horses for export are holding off vaccinating them."

Ms Randall has over 40 horses in her stable and says that the cost of vaccines and the export bans have stopped her vaccinating her horses.

She said that New Zealand is not testing for Hendra and that some Australian trainers are selling horses to the Middle East via New Zealand.

"But the seller has to incur the cost at an added $6000, so it becomes unfeasible to the cost of that horse."

International horse transporter, Crispin Bennett, said "there are currently negotiations between Australia and these countries".

"The Hendra vaccine is still going through clinical trials and has not been signed off or completed. I'm not sure they will accept horses until the trials have been completed," he said.

"There is no test to differentiate between which horses have the anti-body vaccine, or the virus itself."

Mr Bennett said that Queensland exports around 1000 horses annually. "The endurance fraternity is aware that if they vaccinate, they are doing themselves out of a sale.

"Their market is predominately the Gulf and their markets are predominately affected by the vaccine."

However, Freestone equine vet, Monika Baffy, said that unvaccinated horses pose a public health risk.

"To not vaccinate in terms of export to me is very bad and very selfish," she said.

Ms Baffy officiated at the Maryvale endurance ride at the weekend and said that only two horses had been given the first round of vaccinations.

"They didn't have full immunity, that's a real worry.

"I know that some vets won't go to rides anymore if the horses aren't vaccinated. The Ekka has made it mandatory to vaccinate your horse."

Leyburn trainer and Queensland Endurance Riders Association vice-president, Dick Collyer, said that there are strict bio-security measures in place at events.

"We have rigid horse protocols before riders bring a horse to an event. We have decided not to make mandatory vaccinations a priority at this stage."

He said that the export market is only one factor why horses aren't being vaccinated. "I have a stud with 70 horses. It is very expensive."

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