David Parrish III, DVM, was president of the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners in 1980 when a mystery problem occurred that caused abortions in mares during early pregnancy. While both involved abortions and were mysteries, the differences in the severity of the two problems are as wide as the decades that separate them.
The highest number of foals/fetal samples taken to the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center in Lexington, Ky., during the current problem with late-term abortions and early embryonic loss occurred on Derby Day, May 5, according to the Center's Director, Lenn Harrison, VMD, Dipl. ACVP. On that day, 73 foals/fetuses were brought in for examination. Word from at least two veterinarians is that while early pregnancy mares might still be at risk for losing their pregnancies, the loss of these late-term foals is slowing.
The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine offers the following recommendations for mares currently in Kentucky and due to be shipped back to Florida in the near future...
In the wake of the outbreak of late-term fetal/foal deaths and near-term abortions in mares in Central Kentucky, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has issued guidelines for the equine industry on horses from Kentucky entering Florida. The guidelines require a permit to be obtained prior to shipment by veterinarians who issue Official Certificates of Veterinary Inspection. It also recommends to Florida farms that mares from Kentucky be kept isolated from other horses and their health be closely monitored. There has been no ban issued on shipment of horses from Kentucky to Florida.
Thoroughbred industry leaders, veterinarians, researchers, and farm managers met with the media at the Gluck Equine Research Center in Lexington, Ky., for a press briefing on the current fetal/foal loss syndromes occurring in the state. While there are no answers as to why so many mares are aborting in near-term or having stillborns in late term, there are defined paths being taken that everyone involved hopes will lead to the cause.
With Kentucky's share of the Thoroughbred foal crop in the United States at an all-time high of nearly 30%, the repercussions of the excessive foal loss that many Central Kentucky farms are experiencing may be felt for years to come. Based on figures compiled by The Blood-Horse, the economic impact of the problem could easily exceed $150 million, if foal losses amount to 20% of the anticipated 2002 crop. A 1997 national economic impact study conducted by Barents estimated the Kentucky breeding sector to be a $900 million industry annually.
Dr. Doug Byars, a veterinary reproductive specialist at Hagyard-Davidson-Mcgee near Lexington, offers the latest information and advice to horse owners and farm managers concerning the excessive loss of late-term and near term foals. He was interviewed by Kimberly S. Graetz, editor of The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care (www.thehorse.com) and a contributing editor to The Blood-Horse.
Two "syndromes" of unknown origin that began in late April are causing Central Kentucky farms to lose an excessive number of foals and fetuses. The first syndrome results in what broodmare owners know as "red bag," or premature placenta separation. The placenta comes out before the foal, often causing the foal to suffocate if the birth is unattended. The second syndrome was discovered a short time later, when veterinarians began to perform 60-day ultrasound fetal checks and found many mares either were not pregnant or in the process of ending their pregnancies. Some farms have experienced losses from 25-75% of next year's foal crop. There is no evidence the problems are slowing down.
An outbreak of early-term fetal loss in 1980 was eventually discounted by researchers as an "artifact epidemic" caused by earlier than usual examinations. Still, that outbreak now is viewed by many as similar in nature to the current syndrome that many Central Kentucky farms are experiencing. According to experts such as Dr. David Powell of the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, the current problem is much more widespread than in 1980.
Dr. David Powell, an epidemiologist at the University of Kentucky's Veterinary Science Department in the Gluck Equine Research Center, was interviewed Monday by The Blood-Horse about the unusually high number of early fetal loss and late-term abortions among broodmares at Central Kentucky farms.
The following questionnaire about fetal death and late-term abortions is being distributed by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Manangers' Club to its members. The questionnaire, dated May 7, was prepared by the University of Kentucky's Department of Veterinary Science.
The director and staff of the University of Kentucky's Livestock Disease Diagnostic Laboratory have been working long hours conducting necropsies and running tests in an attempt to find answers to the questions raised during the ongoing losses of fetuses and foals in the state. While there hasn't been time yet to compile official numbers of incoming horses for testing, more than 60 have come on some days. The normal number of incoming abortions per day at this time of year is five to six, with a little higher number per day of dead foals.
The Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club and the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners will hold a joint meeting Thursday (May 10) in the Keeneland sales pavilion near Lexington to discuss recent problems with early fetal loss and late term abortions in Central Kentucky. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. (EDT).
Text of the memorandum issued by the University of Kentucky Veterinary Science Department on late term abortions and early fetal deaths.
Two "syndromes" that began near the end of the third week of April are causing Central Kentucky farms to lose an excessive number of foals and fetuses due to an as yet unknown cause. The first syndrome results in what mare owners know as "red bag," or premature placenta separation where the placenta comes out before the foal, often causing the foal to suffocate if the birth is unattended. The second syndrome was discovered around May 1 when veterinarians began routine 60-day fetal checks and discovered that many mares either were empty (not pregnant), or were in the process of losing their pregnancies. Some farms have experienced losses ranging from 25-75% of next year's foal crop. And there is no evidence that this problem is slowing down.
As spring moves into summer, the primary focus of activity on many breeding farms is preparation of yearlings for sale. There isn't much scientific research on exercising horses at that young age, yet many farms are using forced exercise to make these youngsters look like little athletes rather than the gangly teenagers they are. While it is good that ...
The American Association of Equine Practitioners recently released a brochure about vesicular stomatitis for the horse owner.
So far, the evidence for effective herbal deworning is next to nonexistent, according to Dr. Tom Klei of Louisiana State University.
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