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Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome

Following is a statement sent to State Veterinarians the morning of May 11, 2001
TO:  State Veterinarians

DATE:  May 11, 2001

SUBJECT:  Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome

Dr. Don Notter, Kentucky State Veterinarian, has asked that I provide to you the latest information regarding the Early Fetal Loss and Late Term Abortions occurring in Kentucky's equine population.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Office of the State Veterinarian, has been inundated with phone calls from concerned individuals.  A concern at this time is to insure that accurate and factual information is disseminated.  We would greatly appreciate any assistance you might provide. Interested individuals may obtain the latest information regarding the situation by visiting the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Web Page at

An informative meeting was held yesterday evening at Keeneland in Lexington where presentations were given by experts involved in the investigation.  Over 1,000 attended the standing-room-only meeting. Time permitting, you may view the May 10 meeting over the Internet at  To go directly to the portion of the meeting where a summary is given of each of the participantsí presentations, fast-forward to 1 hour, 10minutes and 50 seconds.  The tape will be available through Saturday, May 12.

Information gathered and analyzed thus far:
270 surveys were sent out to farms in Kentucky early this week.
159 were returned and have been reviewed
37 indicated they had not experienced early fetal losses
17 farms report 50 percent or more early fetal losses; most farms had 30 or fewer mares pregnant

The survey identified 3,294 mares pregnant after 42 days
2,616 of these mares were pregnant on May 7th when the surveys went out, suggesting that 678 (20.5 percent) fetuses had been lost.

The investigation at this time would still be indicative of a mycotoxin being the causative agent. Testing conducted thus far has shown higher than expected levels of a mycotoxin called zearalenone, according to experts speaking Thursday night at the Keeneland meeting.  It has been recommended that horse owners treat mares and other horses as if they have had mycotoxin exposure while researchers continue attempts to pinpoint the definite cause of the problems. It is recommended that horses be given feed containing a mycotoxin binder additive.

Also, both this Office and the Gluck Equine Center have received calls from practitioners and horse owners in other states suggesting that they too are experiencing problems that appear similar to that being observed here. We would greatly appreciate any information your office may have regarding similar occurrences.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Office of the State Veterinarian, will continue to keep you apprised of information.  Should you have any questions, feel free to contact either Dr. Notter or myself.  Again, we would offer that the Internet sites are being updated as different testing is completed.

E.S. Rusty Ford
Equine Programs Manager

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