Expansion of Critical Kentucky Lab About to Begin

The long-awaited expansion of the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center, made possible through an $8.5-million appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly this spring, is about to begin and could be completed in about two years, officials said.

The center, located in Lexington, was quite active during mare reproductive loss syndrome in the spring of 2001; so active, in fact, that horse industry officials put out a call for assistance. The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association made the LDDC a legislative priority, and this year, lawmakers responded.

Dr. Lenn Harrison, director of the LDDC, told the Kentucky Interim Joint Subcommittee on Horse Farming July 13 the funds would be used to build a necropsy laboratory adjacent to the existing facility. It will include "digesters" that will dispose of carcasses, he said.

"We handle by far the largest volume of dead-animal carcasses in the country," Harrison said. "Rendering has become less and less an accepted route, so we're going to put in digesters. (Carcasses) are digested down to just basic elements, and it goes into the sewer system. It's environmentally very acceptable."

The new facility will feature six large-animal necropsy bays and five small-animal bays, Harrison he the MRLS outbreak--it handled about 760 fetuses. It is now the smallest of about 40 necropsy labs in the United States, but it has the highest volume of cases, Harrison said. The lab also deals with cattle.

The lab is on provisional accreditation, Harrison said, because in 2004 it didn't meet up to certain standards. That will change with the expansion.

"It has been a shame the way you've had to work, being in the heart of horse country," Democratic Sen. Joey Pendleton said.

Said Democratic Rep. Don Pasley: "When you add it all up, the economic protection (offered by) the lab is in the billions of dollars. Kentucky is the premier horse state, and I believe we should have the premier diagnostic lab."

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer asked Harrison if $8.5 million would be enough to build the necropsy lab. Harrison said it would be sufficient, though he noted the LDDC plans to ask for more funds during the 2006 legislative session to pay for an expansion of its molecular diagnosis lab.

Harrison said the LDDC already has hired a new epidemiologist.