University of Guelph is seeking participants for a study using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to help track movement and interactions between horses and barn staff to examine how they might contribute to disease spread.

University of Guelph researchers are conducting an on-farm study using small, lightweight and non-invasive RFID tags, to document contact patterns in horse barns. This will help them to compare contact patterns within and between horse farms.

The university seeks participants who own horses or work at horse farms to take part in their study.

“This pioneering research can set the path for future veterinary research in this field, as this technology has done for human research,” says doctoral student Rachael Milwid, who is conducting the study with her supervisors Professor Amy Greer and Professor Terri O’Sullivan, in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Population Medicine.

The researchers are collecting data at racehorse facilities and sport (non-racing) facilities. The goal is to learn about the contact patterns in each type of facility and determine how the facilities compare.

RFID tags will be attached to the halters of horses and worn as lanyards on barn staff to measure and track contacts. When two tags are close together, the tags record whom they came in contact with and for how long.

This data is used to create contact network diagrams showing which horses and staff came in contact on each day of the study.

From that data, Milwid, Greer and O’Sullivan will be able to quantify contact patterns within different horse barns.

“A lot of studies make simplifying assumptions about the way in which animals contact one another which are unrealistic,” says Greer. “The RFID tools we have developed for this project provide a unique, cheap, easy to use system to measure contacts between horses and horses and people in real-time. There are many areas of veterinary research where these tools could be used to collect more detailed contact pattern data.”

» Participate In The Study