Risk Management for MRLS in 2002 Detailed; Cause Still Unconfirmed

Researchers have not pinpointed the cause of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, but on Tuesday night they gave Central Kentucky farm managers some proactive steps in hopes of preventing its effects next year. Dr. Scott Smith, the dean of the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, presented suggestions to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Manager's Club to reduce MRLS in 2002.

The primary preventative measures recommended by Smith are:

--Minimize or eliminate exposure of mares to Eastern tent caterpillars

--Keep pregnant mares away from cherry trees

--Mow fields occupied by pregnant mares frequently

--Offer hay to horses, even if they are accessible to pasture forage

Smith emphasized that at this point, all documents addressing MRLS are still in draft form. However, his comments and those by other researchers in the audience indicated tent caterpillars, cherry trees, longer pasture grasses, and limited access to hay were among the common factors in farms exhibiting fetal losses due to MRLS.

Foal viability in pregnant mares offered in the upcoming Keeneland November mixed sale is certainly a concern among farm managers. Dr. David Powell explained an ongoing project monitoring 100 Kentucky-based mares. The mares' pregnancies have been examined monthly, and Powell said to date, none have lost their pregnancies or exhibited any abnormalities. He said a more formal report could be available before the sale.

Smith reemphasized that the exact cause of MRLS is still unknown. However, his report detailing plans for studies, monitoring, and emergency management, clearly indicated a commitment by the University of Kentucky, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to continuing work to find a cure, while also gathering data to hopefully give a control group set of data for future reference.

Smith repeatedly referred questions to the University of Kentucky School of Agriculture web site at http://www.ca.uky.edu/. He said it is being updated whenever new information is available, and its resources include a specific report on Eastern Tent Caterpillars, and a more detailed version of the recommended action to reduce risk from MRLS in 2002 should be available online by Oct. 5