After testing numerous pasture samples for mycotoxins, endophytes, and other possible causes to the problems in Kentucky, tests have shown higher than expected levels of a mycotoxin called zearalenone, according to Dr. Steve Jackson, a consultant for Bluegrass Equine Nutrition. Jackson and other presenters stressed that zearalenone has not been pinpointed as the definitive cause to the problems.
Now two counties in Ohio are seeing syndromes similar to those being presented in Kentucky, according to an update Thursday by Dr. Grant Frazer, associate professor at Ohio State University. Frazer said there is no way to make a confirmation that this is the same problem that Kentucky veterinarians and researchers are dealing with, since no definitive description of the problem has been narrowed down.
The Kentucky state veterinarian's office has fielded calls from all over the country regarding late term abortions and early foal loss in Kentucky mares, but Florida remains the only state to take action. The Sunshine State is requiring a special permit for horses shipping in from Kentucky. Dr. Don Notter, Kentucky state veterinarian, is recommending that anyone shipping a mare anywhere should contact the state veterinarian for their destination. He said restrictions and special permits could become required almost overnight.
So far it looks as if many Kentucky breeding sheds will stay open as long as they have clients who want to book their mares...or until the stallions must head into quarantine for trips to Southern Hemisphere locations.
The information session on late term abortions and early fetal loss conducted at the Keeneland sales pavilion Thursday will be available online at Keeneland's web site, www.keeneland.com, for the next 48 hours. In addition, Keeneland announced at the meeting that it will have a videotape of the session available early next week.
While Kentucky horse farms are at the epicenter of the foal loss crisis, the problem is not contained to the Bluegrass region according to a Northern Ohio veterinarian.
The University of Kentucky Disease Diagnostic Center reported Thursday that a total of 386 aborted/stillborn equine fetuses/foals had been submitted for diagnostic testing/evaluation since the problem first arose late last month.
As of May 10, the states of Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana seem to be clear of the problems facing Kentucky horse breeders.
By Sarah E. Hogwood
Simpsonville, Ky., is experiencing the same problems that are plaguing horse breeders in Lexington, according to William Rhoads, DVM, and Scott Bennett, DVM, of Equine Services Hospital.
Actually, the view from the field in Central Kentucky is rather lonely. There are acres and acres of fresh-mown--or being furiously mowed--pastures that are beginning to resemble putting greens. The recommendation is to cut the grass to hopefully reduce the amount of mycotoxins being ingested by mares--if in fact that is the cause of the current syndromes affecting pregnant mares. Managers and owners desperate for something to do that might help are taking all suggestions seriously. Veterinarians are pulling out all the stops treating at-risk mares with everything that seems logical. Researchers and scientists are busily taking samples and running tests to try and find answers.
Officials with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Animal Industry, reported early Thursday afternoon that in 2 1/2 days they have received applications for 71 permits for horse shipments from Kentucky to Florida. In the wake of the recent foal/fetal loss outbreak in Kentucky, the state of Florida enacted temporary regulations requiring all horses from the Bluegrass State be tracked through the issuance of a permit from the state's Commissioner of Agriculture.
As of noon today (May 9), the University of Kentucky's Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center stated that a total of 371 aborted/stillborn fetuses had been submitted for diagnostic testing/evaluation since April 28, 2001. The total includes 25 submitted by noon on May 9, and 28 submitted May 8.
On Tuesday, May 8, notices were sent to each state veterinarian "to make sure they got factual information" about the current foal loss problems, said Rusty Ford, Equine Programs Manager with the Kentucky State Veterinarian's Office.
The Keeneland Association announced Wednesday that Thursday's inforamtional meeting concerning later term abortions and early fetal deaths will be offered on its Website. The meeting, organized by the Kentucky Farm Managers' Club and the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners, begins at 5 p.m. (ET) in Keeneland's sales pavilion.
A veterinarian in Morgan County, Ohio, suspects that five cases of red bag delivery within the past week--plus 10 pregnant mares that are now empty--could be the same syndrome that horse owners and veterinarians in Kentucky are dealing with, according to Grant Frazer, BVSc, MS, Associate Professor at The Ohio State University.
Veterinary and diagnostic professionals in Kentucky are working feverishly to identify the cause of the recent abortion and early fetal loss syndromes. One of the most probable causes is mycotoxins in pastures. If that is the case, then a mycotoxin binder used for other animals--and now being produced locally as a feed additive for horses--could offer the first preventative treatment for the current situation.
In its early stages, the foal loss syndrome appeared to be contained to Kentucky.
The effects of the current crisis resulting from mares aborting or having late-term stillborn foals are being felt on the equine insurance business. According to insurance professionals, underwriters are not accepting any policies written for barrenness or prospective foal insurance in Central Kentucky.
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.
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