February of every year marks a big event in all our foal’s lives. Besides the fact that it is the time we start weaning, it is also the time that Professor Alan Guthrie and his team micro-chips each of them. Unlike most of the other countries internationally, we do not tattoo or brand our horses for identification, we use this easy and effective way of micro-chipping them at a young age. Professor Guthrie, from the Equine Research Centre at Onderstepoort Veterinary Faculty, travels the whole of the country and every single registered Thoroughbred foal gets micro-chipped.
Each mare’s passport gets checked, the foal’s ID gets checked and a blood sample of the foal is taken for DNA typing, to confirm his parentage. Most of the younger mares have gone through this process as foals themselves, so a simple scan of the bar code on their passport, compared with their own micro-chip, confirms who they are. Most of the older mares which have had several foals before will be already DNA typed as well.
Each foal is then implanted with a micro-chip, which is more or less 2mm by 15mm. The implant is placed mid-crest on the left hand side, just under the skin. It is a very simple procedure, more or less an injection with a large bore needle.
The whole Summerhill staff starts at 6am, where one team is responsible for bringing in all the groups of mares and foals, as it is easier to handle them in the stables, and another team for taking them out again. The third team then assists the Prof. with restraint and holding of the mares and foals. Having in the area of 170 foals to micro-chip here on the farm, it’s surprising that the whole process only took us roughly 6 hours, thus making it only 2 minutes per foal.
The modern micro-chips they use are also so advanced that besides being able to tell you the foal’s unique ID number with a quick scan of the neck, it can also tell you the horse’s temperature. So no more nearly getting your head kicked off by having to fiddle under their tails with a silly thermometer!
Posted by Annet Becker