Operations have improved, as have conditions at Smithfield Farm on Sandwich Road.
Farm owner Janice Foster and her attorney, Sarah Long, were before the Falmouth Board of Health on Monday, September 13, to discuss the latest update on conditions at the farm.
During his most-recent inspection in early September, health agent Scott McGann was joined by Margaret Gabour, the assistant veterinary health official for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
The inspectors visited the farm at 7 PM to ensure activities for the day were complete. Previous issues—including a buildup of manure in stalls and lack of water—were addressed, Mr. McGann said.
“The stalls were much better,” Mr. McGann said, adding the only stall with manure in it is rented by a rough boarder who is personally responsible for the mucking of the stall. Rough boarders are those who own their horses and care for them at the farm.
An area of concern was the buildup of algae witnessed by Mr. McGann in some water buckets, despite the fact they are being cleaned regularly.
Ms. Foster said she is dumping water buckets twice a day to try and mitigate buildup from normal horse activities, as well as using veterinarian-recommended cleaning supplies. Mr. McGann plans to work with Ms. Foster to determine the proper cleaning supplies and methods to use in water buckets to help lessen the problem.
“We have been dumping the water because as the horses run around in the paddock it gets a film of dust on the tops and then that dust settles down and the water does appear to be dirty. So we have been dumping the buckets twice a day,” Ms. Foster said.
An electrical inspection that was done on the farm found no immediate areas of concern but did provide suggestions for updated wiring. The farm plans to address the wiring concerns, Mr. McGann said.
The wettest portion of the barn is currently not being used for horses. Mr. McGann suggested that Ms. Foster continue not to use that section of stalls until new tarps can be installed. Mr. McGann also said he would recommend Ms. Foster do a final sweep of the barn each night to make sure rough boarders have complied with stable rules to keep grain covered and stalls clean.
There are currently 16 horses on the property, eight of which are owned by rough boarders, Ms. Long said.
No manure management issues were observed during the inspection and there were plenty of shavings present, Mr. McGann said.
The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been working with Ms. Foster on a feeding plan for horses on the property, Mr. McGann said. The MSPCA did not find any ongoing problems with the horses’ safety that would require regulatory action.
“From a regulatory standpoint the MSPCA feels there is no action they need to take,” Mr. McGann said.
The MSPCA will be back to Smithfield within the next week to continue to monitor the horses on the feeding program, Mr. McGann said.
Health board chairwoman Diana Molloy questioned the presence of minors on the property. Supervision was a stipulation of the board’s requirements, due to prior issues involving minors.
The topic was brought before the board due to a previous inspection where Mr. McGann observed minors on the farm without an adult present. Ms. Long rebutted Mr. McGann, stating two adults were on property at the time of the inspection in question. Ms. Long discussed this information with Mr. McGann prior to the board of health meeting.
“I don’t know if it’s appropriate to say that the rough boarders, who are there to muck their own stalls, shouldn’t go if their parents aren’t there looking over them,” Ms. Long said. “I have a concern that we are giving the impression that there’s 8-year-old kids running around handling the horses. These are teenagers who own their own horses.”
Board member George Heufelder said the farm has come a long way in regard to board-required mitigation. The board agreed that as business operations have changed on the farm, the need for a staffing plan that requires adult supervision of minors is no longer necessary.
The only individuals allowed on the property, as stated by Ms. Long, are rough boarders and those who have permission from Ms. Foster.
The plan is for Mr. McGann to continue with unannounced inspections for the time being.