International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation (ITBF) Congress in Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town also hosted the 2017 Congress of the International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation during January.

The opening session afforded representatives from the pharmaceutical company Zoetis an opportunity to answer questions on the global shortage of the EHV vaccine and explain the measures that were being put in place to prevent such a shortage from occurring in future. Zoetis confirmed that while they hope to have some recovery by the latter half of 2017, they would only be able to comfortably meet the demand for the vaccine by 2018.

Dr John Grewar, Senior Researcher of the Equine Health Fund at the Wits Health Consortium, brought delegates up to speed on the latest developments regarding African Horse Sickness. He indicated that significant research advances have allowed the creation of protocols that should allow safe exportation of horses around the world without fear of spreading the disease.

Dr Grewar went on to explain that under the current proposed procedures, risks would be limited to a minimal one in 187,000 horses testing positive for AHS and that post-arrival quarantine would significantly reduce that risk further.

He concluded by pointing out that AHS is not an insurmountable challenge as a result of international collaboration and that evidence-based risk mitigation and sensible export protocols could provide a sustainable and lucrative continuation of the global trade program.
Genomics is the new buzz word worldwide, especially with the discovery of the ‘speed gene’, but Dr Brandon Velie of the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences cautioned delegates against placing too much emphasis on genomics in their breeding programs.

He pointed out that genetic testing currently could have more value in either confirming or ruling out diseases. With breathing problems in racehorses being one of the biggest problems trainers face, Dr Velie suggested that the thoroughbred industry keeps a close eye on the outcome of a study on dynamic laryngeal collapse in harness racing horses, currently being conducted in Sweden.
During the second day, Professor Warwick Bayly, of the Washington State University gave a fascinating insight into the latest veterinary advances in the fields of reproduction, orthopaedics, imaging and respiratory.

Prof Bayly discussed new treatments for persistent post-breeding endometritis as well as possible treatments for sub-fertile stallions. While equine imaging is another area where significant advances have been made, and Prof Bayly introduced the delegates to the recently developed standing robotic CT scan.

The conference concluded with an informal vote taken on several key issues, including whether companies doing gene testing should be allowed access to the worldwide thoroughbred industry databases.

Dr Des Leadon, ITBF veterinary chair and Irish Equine Centre clinical consultant pointed out that several companies have sought access to genetic data acquired during thoroughbred registrations for use in determining which genes provide superior racing performance. The sixty delegates in attendance voted overwhelmingly against such data being made available.