ALBERTA THOROUGHBRED MICROCHIPPING PROJECT - ABSTRACT Jean Kruse General Manager, C.T.H.S. (Alberta Division)

 
ALBERTA THOROUGHBRED MICROCHIPPING PROJECT - ABSTRACT Jean Kruse General Manager, C.T.H.S. (Alberta Division)
ABSTRACT
                                                  Final report on microchipping in the Alberta
                                                  Thoroughbred Industry

                                                  Jean Kruse
                                                  General Manager, C.T.H.S. (Alberta Division)

ALBERTA
THOROUGHBRED
MICROCHIPPING
PROJECT
 Growing Forward 2 Traceability Program Project
ALBERTA THOROUGHBRED MICROCHIPPING PROJECT - ABSTRACT Jean Kruse General Manager, C.T.H.S. (Alberta Division)
Table of Contents

Introduction                                                                           2
Project Objectives                                                                     3
Detailed Description of Project                                                        4
Project Objectives Completed                                                           6
Completed Project Activities                                                           9
Conclusion                                                                             13
Recommendations                                                                        15

Appendix                                                                               18
A.   Example of Microchipping demonstration announcement
B.   Step by Step Users Guide for Implanting Microchips
C.   Horse Racing Traceability and Health Management Software Program Summary
D.   Certificate of Completion for Alberta Veterinary Medical Association
E.   Financial General Ledger Reports 2015-2018 (Not included in Public Presentation Report)
F.   University of Calgary Veterinary Report
G.   Microchipping Project Update
H.   Owner/Agent Informed Consent Form

Acknowledgements                                                                       35

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Introduction

The equine industry has been lacking an acceptable way to identify equines. Over the years
several different methods of identification have been explored including iris scanning to ear tags.
Current methods are not standardized nor are they widespread or accepted by all equine industry
groups. The challenge has been in finding a solution that will be acceptable to all aspects of the
equine industry. This challenge looks to have been answered with a new microchip location that
will meet or exceed any federal or provincial legislative requirements and also provide a user net
benefits to the equine industry.
Disease control and traceability for equines has created some difficulties due to the lack of a
unique individual animal identification for equines in Canada. In the past, Thoroughbreds have
been identified through written descriptions of markings which have not been accurate enough
to easily identify Thoroughbred horses. Although tattooing has been in use for a number of years
only Thoroughbreds who have arrived at a racetrack for the purposes of racing are tattooed. The
tattoo itself is problematic as it can be extremely difficult to read especially as the Thoroughbred
ages.
Beginning in 2008 The Jockey Club began offering microchips for sale to interested owners and
breeders for use in Thoroughbreds residing in the U.S.A. and Canada however their use was not
a requirement for Thoroughbred breeders or owners. Registration and participation of microchip
usage was voluntary.
In 2016 The Jockey Club put into place the mandatory requirement that beginning in 2017 all
Thoroughbred foals would be required to be microchipped. This requirement made the
acceptance of microchipping easier for the Alberta Thoroughbred Microchipping project to be
introduced to the Thoroughbred industry however as The Jockey Club chose a different microchip
location than the Alberta Thoroughbred Micro-chipping project. The suggested implant site from
The Jockey Club is in the nuchal ligament in the left side of the equine in the middle third of the
neck. The implant area promoted by The Jockey Club created some challenges to the project
however these were addressed and led to a compromise between The Jockey Club and the
Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

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Project Objectives

The objectives of the Alberta Thoroughbred Microchipping Project were as follows:

      Standardized method of identification and location that can be used as the industry
       standard for equine identification and management.
      Integration of microchips and software into breed organizations and comingling events.
      To implant every Thoroughbred foal born in the next three years in Alberta with a
       microchip.
      Assist breeders in adopting and integrating new technologies such as software and chip
       readers into their businesses.
      To provide a template for other breed organizations and associations to adopt and follow
       in the future.
      To move the equine industry towards a high standard of equine identification and
       management.

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Detailed Description of the Microchipping Project

Over the years several different methods of identification have been tried for equines with
limited success. Work by Mr. Les Burwash, Equine Specialist at Alberta Horse Industry explored
several options over the years. Ear tags were not embraced as equine owners involved in
showing or competing with their horses did not want an identification method that would be
visible. Ear tags were also problematic in that they could be pulled out and lost, a problem that
has been experienced in the bovine industry which has used this method of identification for a
number of years.
Iris scanning was also investigated as a possibility however the technology could not address the
main question as to what happened if it was possible for the iris to change over the age of an
equine what that would mean for identification.
Microchipping appeared to be the best option however even that technology generated some
issues. Early microchips were encased in glass which created issues of migration where the
microchip did not stay where it was implanted and would be found in other parts of the body.
These early microchips also created a hazard of breakage and what that could mean to the equine
if the microchip broke inside the body of the equine.
Microchips have progressed and the ones current in use by The Jockey Club and the Alberta
Thoroughbred Microchipping project are Bio-compatible, FDA-approved SLIM polymer
encapsulated microchips. https://www.pet.datamars.com/portfolio-items/t-sl-slim-polymer-
microchip-usa/?portfolioCats=63
 The Jockey Club has opted for implementation in the nuchal ligament area. It is the view of this
project that the nuchal ligament area is problematic for a number of reasons. The microchip has
been found in some cases to migrate from the nuchal ligament making it difficult to find and
therefore read the microchip. Implanting a microchip into the nuchal ligament of a foal can mean
that as the equine ages the microchip may become deeply embedded into the nuchal ligament
also making it difficult to find and read. The Jockey Club has also asked that the implant area be
in the left side of the equine and in the middle third of the neck. This leads to some difficulties
amongst some individuals who are implanting the microchip to become confused as to which is
the left side of the equine or where the middle third of the neck may be.
Inserting into the nuchal ligament may involve sedating the equine and shaving the area where
the microchip will be inserted. This also introduces a foreign object into an area that the horse
uses for movement.
Being able to read the microchip when placed in the nuchal ligament can create some difficulties.
Equines are not always comfortable with people approaching them from the side in order to read
the microchip when it has been inserted in the side of the neck. The natural curiosity of equines
means that they are quite comfortable using their sense of smell to sniff at anything that is held

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out to them. This means that when looking for a microchip that has been implanted nasally it
makes it easier for a novice handler to get a reading.
This project focuses on a new implant site; above the dorsal aspect of the orbicularis oris muscle
and underneath the depressor septi muscle. This location is completely novel and addresses
several concerns of equine owners. First of all it is very easy to find the implant area and no risk
of getting the implant area incorrect. Secondly, this area does not develop muscle causing the
microchip to become lost in the surrounding tissue. The area is easy to find in order to read the
microchip, especially for individuals who do not have a lot of experience around equines. Equines
naturally use their sense of smell to learn about the world around them and approach the
microchip readers without fear.

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Project Objectives Completed

   1. Standardized method of identification and location that can be used as the industry
      standard for equine identification and management.
The nasal implant area has proven to be a method of identification that can be standardized and
used in the equine industry for identification and management. The nasal implant area allows for
ease of administering the microchip with a 99.9% retention rate. Current data is showing that if
the microchip is there after 24 hours it will retained for the life of the equine.
The nasal implant area provides a safe and easily accessed area to identify equines. The natural
inclination of an equine to use their nose to explore which means that reading microchips
inserted within the nasal area is easy and can be managed by individuals who do not have a lot
of experience in working with equines. It also allows for equines to be identified if they are being
trailered to comingling sites as handlers do not need to access the inside of a trailer.
Dr. Wayne Burwash, veterinarian, has stated that nasal implants are a huge step forward and
highly recommends that breed organizations adopt this implant area for microchipping.
   2. Integration of microchips and software into breed organizations and comingling events.
Over the course of the project microchips were inserted in to several breeds of horses other than
Thoroughbreds. In total 2,200 Thoroughbreds and other breeds were implanted with microchips
into the nasal area. The horses implanted also encompass a wide range of ages; from day old
foals to brood mares the microchipping project had a wide range of ages volunteered to take part
in the project.
The number of horses that were microchipped along with the age range has provided the project
with a robust sample to review in regards to the viability of the nasal implant area.
   3. To implant every Thoroughbred foal born in the next three years in Alberta with a
      microchip.
Due to the decision by The Jockey Club in 2016 that as of 2017 all Thoroughbred foals were to be
microchipped the objective of implanting every Thoroughbred foal born in the next three years
has been met and in fact will continue past the three years sited in the project. On November 7,
2016 the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society recommended that the nasal implant site be the
preferred site for Canadian bred horses. Allowance was made for Canadian breeders to choose
if they wished to use the nucal ligament site adopted by The Jockey Club rather than the nasal
implant area.
Registration papers provided by The Jockey Club have the microchip number recorded on the
papers.

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4. Assist breeders in adopting and integrating new technologies such as software and chip
      readers into their businesses.
Several clinics and farm visitations were conducted over the course of the project showing how
to implant the microchip into the nasal area. Overall breeders were enthusiastic about the ease
of implanting into the nasal area and many have now undertaken to do their own equines
without the need for someone else to handle the implants.
Two software programs were developed in conjunction with the microchipping project. One
software program has been developed for farm management and has been beta tested by several
breed farms. It is still in the beta testing stage. This software program will be able to be used by
both small and large equine breeders allowing for the management of all areas of equine care.
The second software program was developed for use on the racetracks and allows for inventory
management along with the needs of the racing authority regarding veterinary treatments. This
program is also being beta tested by Century Downs and Horse Racing Alberta.

   5. To provide a template for other breed organizations and associations to adopt and follow
      in the future.
Throughout the course of the project guidelines and procedures have been developed in order
to provide a means for other equine breed organizations and associations to adopt. This would
include the protocol for microchipping in the nasal area along with the development of software
that can be used for breed farm management.
The production of a video outlining both the protocol and methodology provides an easily
accessible template for other breed organizations to adopt and follow moving forward.
Other equine organizations such as the Standardbred, Quarter Horse, Equestrian Canada and
Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada have all expressed interest in adopting the nasal implant area
as the area of choice due to the ease of implanting and reading a microchip.

   6. To move the equine industry towards a high standard of equine identification and
      management.
The need to move the equine industry towards a high standard of equine identification and
management has become a priority. With the number of natural disasters that the province has
experienced in the last number of years it has become obvious that when it comes to emergency
response and the movements of equines having a method of identification is absolutely
necessary. If a breeder is unable to move equines to a safe site via trailering and needs to cut

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fences to allow for equines to escape the use of microchipping allows for easy identification of
the equine and the ability to return that equine to the owner.
Use of microchipping also allows for identification regarding equines that may have been stolen
and attempts made to sell at auction or to the processing plant.
In light of several natural disasters that have happened throughout the Province of Alberta the
use of microchipping is quickly being adopted as owners see the benefits of having their equines
easily identified. In the case of fire or flood owners are not always able to evacuate their stock in
a timely manner and may need to open gates or cut fences to free their animals in the event of
the need for evacuation.
Sales Companies in the U.S. are also now looking for evidence that Thoroughbreds being
presented for sale have had a microchip inserted. The Jockey Club requirement of microchipping
all registered Thoroughbreds has made moving the industry towards equine identification that
much easier.

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Completed Project Activities

   1. Microchipping Demonstrations:
During the term of the project demonstrations of the microchip implant area were given in
several locations throughout Canada and Europe (example of Microchipping Demonstration
Appendix A). These included the following:
February 23, 2016 demonstration held at Olds College with the students in the equine sciences
course.
August 18, 2015 demonstration at Highfield Stock Farms in Okotoks.
November 21, 2016 demonstration/training sessions in Ontario.
December 2, 2016 demonstration and training in B.C. Presented to breeders and Horse Council
B.C.
February 23rd, 2017 demonstration/training session held at Calnash Ag Event Centre in Ponoka,
Alberta
March 22nd, 2017 demonstration/training session held at Highfield Stock Farm in Okotoks,
Alberta.
February 23, 2017 demonstration of microchipping and hands on training was held in Ponoka,
AB. The (10) ten attendees included veterinarians, animal health technologists, equine breeders,
and trainers. Thoroughbred horses being microchipped were mainly mares (23 total).
   2. Development of a Step by Step Guide for implanting microchips in the Nasal region:
A step by step users guide for implanting microchips in the nasal region of equines was developed
and published for use in
This users’ guide was available online and was also printed and handed out at demonstrations
and clinics for attendees to have as a resource. A copy of the users’ guide can be found in
Appendix B.
   3. Video of how to implant microchip:
The microchipping project contracted with Fresh Cut Television in order to produce a video
explaining how to insert the microchip into the nasal area but also other information regarding
the reasoning behind the use of the nasal implant area.
The completed video can be viewed online at https://www.cthsalta.com/microchipping-media

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4. Development of farm management software:
Dr. Troy Drake of Herdtrax was contracted to develop both a farm management software and
racetrack software program that would be able to make use of the microchip technology. The
software programs are not dependent upon where the microchip is placed (nuchal ligament or
nasal). They are dependent upon microchips that are ISO compatible.
The farm management software has been beta tested with a number of Thoroughbred breeding
farms. Bar None Ranches in DeWinton, Higher Trails in Okotoks and Highfield Stock Farms were
some of the larger equine sites that were given the opportunity to beta test the software.
To date the farm management software program is in the beta testing phase. A full project
summary can be found in Appendix C.
    5. Development of racetrack management software:
Dr. Troy Drake of Herdtrax was contracted to develop a racetrack software program that would
be able to make use of microchip (RFID) technology at the racetrack. This software allows for
tracks to scan horses arriving or leaving the racetrack site providing the racetrack secretary with
access to the equine inventory onsite.
The software program will allow for racetracks to also have the ability to manage and monitor
animal health, random drug testing and race position verification. The full description of this
software program is found in Appendix C.
    6. Continuing Education Credits for Veterinarian Technicians:

February 23, 2017 training session in Ponoka, AB was approved for 2 continuing education credits
through the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA).
February 24, 2017 training with AHT from Northlands Park.
March 22, 2017 training session in Aldersyde was approved for 2 continuing education credits
through the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA).
Certificate of Completion can be found in Appendix D.

    Microchipping of Thoroughbreds and other equines throughout Alberta and Canada:
November 2016: Microchipping of horses in Ontario and B.C.
 Date:           Number          Type    Venue             Notes:
                 Microchipped
 June 2/16       15              TBs     Northlands Park

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June 8/16       2              TBs     Okotoks           Highfield Stock Farm
 June 20/16      12             TBs     DeWinton          Running Fawcett Thoroughbreds
                 3              TBs     Langdon
 June 16/16      41             TBs     Northlands Park
 June 23/16      18             TBs     Northlands Park   33 horses rescanned -100% retention
 June 27/16      31             TBs     Madden            Stone Ranches- Rescanned on July 4/16
                                                          100% retention
 July 7/16       8              TBs     Northlands Park   28 horses rescanned-100% retention
 July 14/16      38             TBs     Northlands Park   24 horses rescanned-100% retention
 August 4/16     14             TBs     Northlands Park   30 horses rescanned -100% retention
 August 8/16     6              TBs     Ponoka            Woodriver- microchipping and training
 August 11/16    53             TBs     Northlands Park   47 horses rescanned- 100% retention
 August 18/16    54*            TBs     Northlands Park   1 reinserted due to travelling back
                                                          down the track. 56 horses re-scanned-
                                                          100% retention
 August 24/16    35             TBs     Northlands Park   49 horses rescanned- 100% retention
 August 25/16    45             TBs     Northlands Park
 August 31/16    32             TBs     Northlands Park   77 horses rescanned-100% retention
 Sept. 2/16      2              TBs     Airdrie           Sertan Racing Stable-rescanned on
                                                          09/14/16 with 100% retention
 Sept. 8/16      42             TBs     Northlands Park   44 horses rescanned-100% retention
 Sept. 17/16     2              TBs     Northlands Park   45 horses rescanned-100% retention
 Sept. 27/16     11             TBs     Three Hills       Winchester Stables
 Sept. 28/16     20             TBs     Northlands Park
 Nov. 15/16      13             TBs     Didsbury          Peaceful Valley 7 weanlings, 5 yearlings,
                                                          1 2YO
 Nov. 29/16      5              TBs     Okotoks           Bar None Ranches
 Jan. 30/17      2              TBs     Nanton            Jug Handle Ranch
 Feb. 21/17      27             TBs     Viking
 Feb. 24/17      8              TBs     Strathmore        Don Knight Farm
 March 14/17     2              TBs     Dewinton          Pozzo Farm
 March 16/17     17             TBs     Bowden
 April 29/17     2              TBs     Barrhead
 May 23/17       17             TBs     Madden

    7. Presentations:
On November 2-3, 2016 Adrienne Herron presented at the Traceability Symposium 2016 about
Regulated Indicators – Equine Challenges and Research Solutions outlining findings from the nasal
microchipping project and solutions for equine traceability. The symposium, held in Calgary,
brought together governments, industry and private sector to identify gaps, share successes and
lessons learned to “bridge the gaps” as traceability moves forward in Canada.
The 2017 Equestrian Canada (EC) Convention took place April 7-9 in Vancouver, B.C. The EC
Convention was held in partnership with the Horse Council of British Colombia (HCBC) in order

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to provide the Canadian Equestrian community with three days of educational opportunities,
world-class speakers and social networking events- revolving around the theme, “Building a
Unified Canadian Equestrian Community”. Adrienne Herron presentation “Equine Traceability”,
the presentation was well attended with 35 people in attendance. The EC Industry Council asked
for Adrienne Herron to become a council member with Equestrian Canada seeming to be eager
to work on traceability and microchipping.
    8. Presentation to International Equine Associations:
In January 2017 a presentation was made by Adrienne Herron to the International Thoroughbred
Breeders’ Federation (ITBF) meeting which was held in Cape Town, South Africa.
The project was presented to ITBF members and veterinarian delegates during the conference.
A live demonstration was held at one of the participating stud farms. Two older broodmares were
microchipped in the rostral interincisive canal to demonstrate the location and ease of
application. Several questions were asked at the demonstration regarding the rate of infections
(none to date). The live animal demonstration incited many conversations with delegates and
veterinarians about the location. The location was theoretically well received from the delegates
and veterinarians. There was interest from countries that already have a microchipping protocol
in place (South Africa, Ireland, United Kingdom and Japan). There were questions raised about
moving away from the current location of the nuchal ligament towards the nasal areal and how
that change might occur. The ITBF was presented with the background of the project,
rationalization of the location, overview of the project and development of software through a
power point presentation.
A meeting was also held with Dr. Allan Guthrie (head of the South Africa microchipping team) to
discuss the project and potential future collaboration. Dr. Guthrie was receptive to the project
and potential location and planned to test the location for himself.
Adrienne Herron also stopped in Germany to meet with the International Standards Organization
(ISO). The project power point presentation was shown to the veterinarian in charge of any
potential ISO standard for equine identification location (Dr. Sven Huther). Dr. Huther expressed
enthusiasm for the location and supported moving forward with the location for the ISO standard
for equine identification.
Overall the project was well received and the international equine community has expressed
interest in the microchipping location project.

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Conclusion
In February 2015 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (C.F.I.A.) published a report entitled
Proposed Risk Management Strategy for EIA Control in Canada which was prepared by the
Domestic Disease Control Programs Terrestrial Animal Health Division of the C.F.I.A. In this
report the C.F.I.A. stated:
        4.7 Lack of unique individual animal ID and equine traceability

        The CFIA has some significant difficulties performing disease control activities associated with EIA
        due to the lack of a unique individual animal identification system for equines in Canada. For
        example, the current written and pictorial descriptions of an equine and its markings have been
        insufficiently accurate to conduct EIA measures in certain circumstances. This has resulted in the
        CFIA having to expend extra resources to properly conduct investigations. Also, the lack of a
        national standardized ID system to identify individual equines has impacted the CFIA’s ability to
        effectively and efficiently track relevant health and movement information. The absence of a
        searchable database containing testing information also contributes to the difficulties faced.
        These gaps in information as well as technology make it challenging for the program to be as
        responsive and effective as possible.

        6.6 Linking EIA control with improved ID and traceability

        An effective identification system is a key component to any successful disease control effort and
        a national standardized system that would allow for the identification and tracking of an individual
        equine could have a significant and positive impact on the EIA program. The establishment of such
        a system would also have benefits for the equine industry beyond the program and because of
        this it is being proposed that a national standardized equine ID system be developed and
        implemented in association with EIA testing in the future. Significant stakeholder collaboration
        will be required in this area.

The Alberta Microchipping Project addresses both of these statements by the C.F.I.A. and has
further applications that will greatly assist with traceability and management of the Canadian
equine herd.
    1. The use of microchips provides a unique individual animal ID and provides equine
       traceability. Each microchip (RFID) has its own unique number and once inserted into
       the nasal area does not migrate to other areas of the animal. When inserted correctly
       retention is 99%.

    2. Insertion into the nasal area makes it an easy area to read the microchip. This also
       means that individuals who do not have any experience in being around equines will be
       able to have easy access to reading microchips and not have to wait until someone with
       handling experience is available.

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3. Using the nasal area as the insertion area ensures there is no confusion regarding
       exactly where the microchip should be inserted. It has been discovered that for some
       individuals knowing right from left and what exact area on the nucal ligament is to be
       used can create misunderstandings leading for equines to be microchipped more than
       once.

    4. Equines who are being shipped will be able to be identified easier when the microchip
       has been inserted into the nasal area. Individuals only have to have access to the
       equine’s head area in order to read the microchip. An equine’s natural instinct is to sniff
       at items thereby making the use a reader to find out the microchip number easily done
       and without having to get into a trailer or up close to an equine in order to read
       microchips.

    5. Herdtrax Inc. developed an easy to use web based database application for the tracking,
       monitoring and auditing of individual horses at each respective venue. An existing
       equine farm management program was developed to assist with the day to day
       occurrences at a breeding farm. If necessary horse records and their entire history can
       be transferred between the racetrack program and the farm management program.

    6. When inserted into the nasal area of an equine it provides a way to easily identify an
       individual equine. The nasal insert does not require producers or owners to incur high
       costs in order to microchip their equines. They do not need to have a vet or vet tech
       involved in the insertion nor do horses require to be tranquillized to have the microchip
       inserted into the nasal area.

    7. When inserted into the nasal area and following the correct insertion protocol the
       retention rate of the microchip is 99.9%. Equines who were part of the program were
       scanned after insertion and then several weeks later. A year later microchips were still
       found in the equines where the microchip had been inserted into the nasal area and the
       microchip had not migrated to any other area in the equine.

    8. The orientation and depth of implant with the nasally implanted electronic identifier
       provides an advantage in reading the implant over the nuchal ligament location.
       Electronic identifiers placed in the nuchal ligament can be deeply imbedded in tissue
       and orientation of the implant may make it difficult for the transceiver signal to reach
       and activate. The nasally implanted electronic identifier has less overlying tissue with
       correspondingly easier penetration of the transceiver signal to the electronic identifier.
       The radiographic images of the eleven nasally implanted equines indicates that the
       longer side of the implant (10.9 ± 0.4mm) is oriented towards the transceiver which
       improves readability and read range. Furthermore, changes in body condition score or
       in implant depth due to growth are unlikely to impact the nasal region as is possible in
       the nuchal ligament location.

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Recommendations

It is recommended that the nasal implant area be adopted as the area for microchip insertion for
the Alberta equine herd. With the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society supporting the nasal
implant area for all Canadian Thoroughbreds it would make sense for this implant area to be
adopted by all Canadian equine organizations and to become the Canadian standard. The
advantages of using this area far outweigh any disadvantages.
It is recommended that work be continued on developing a software program that can be used
to manage and monitor the Alberta equine herd. Herdtrax has made advances in having a usable
and made in Alberta solution to equine herd management both on racetracks and other
comingling sites; including breeding farms of all sizes. Continuing to work with this software and
developing it further for use in Alberta would be a cost effective answer to traceability both
within and outside of Alberta.

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APPENDIX

A.   Example of Microchipping demonstration announcement
B.   Step by Step Users Guide for Implanting Microchips
C.   Horse Racing Traceability and Health Management Software Program Summary
D.   Certificate of Completion for Alberta Veterinary Medical Association
E.   Financial General Ledger Reports 2015-2018 (Not included in Public Presentation Report)
F.   University of Calgary Veterinary Report
G.   Microchipping Project Update
H.   Owner/Agent Informed Consent Form

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Acknowledgements

        The Alberta Thoroughbred Micro-chipping Project was made possible by the generous
        support of the Government of Alberta and the Growing Forward 2 Traceability Program.
        We would like to thank them for all their support.

        This project would also not have been possible without the vision of Ms. Adrienne
        Herron, M.Sc., P. Ag., Agriculture and Rural Development Division.

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