Systems Ventilation

My large animal veterinary medicine professor told us a story of a visit to a dairy barn in the middle of winter filled with milking cows, all with pneumonia.  The farmer was perplexed, but my professor knew the answer.  He took a hammer and broke open every closed window.  Ventilation, the best way to keep the lungs healthy, was the moral of his story.  I have always believed this.

There are some barns I go into in the winter where I can hardly breathe, and my eyes tear.  I understand this is a sign of overfeeding carbohydrates, and the horse is destroying their proteins and excreting the resulting ammonia.  But it also means that there was no ventilation in the barn.

There is poor barn ventilation if moisture accumulates on any surface in a closed barn in winter. Moisture in the barn air is because the horses are rebreathing their exhaled air, which is unhealthy. But it is worse when horses mix with other horses from different barns (an incoming new boarder or at a show). In addition, airborne diseases, such as strangles and influenza, travel between horses in the stagnant and moisture-laden air.

Let’s not forget the warm summer months.  Keeping horses inside where no air circulation adds to rebreathing and disease. It also adds to overheating and the stress from this.  Though rare because people don’t like to work in hot air with poor ventilation, these conditions occur in barns closed up for any reason in the summer.  The horses are trapped and stressed like a dog left in a parked car with no open windows.  Stress can lead to other problems.

Ventilation is important for ALL animals.  If you are uncomfortable, then so are your horses.  Ventilation is that simple.

An oscillating ceiling fan above a stall.

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