Lab results show a sample of equine feed manufactured by an Alltech subsidiary was contaminated with two toxins deadly to horses.
Of nine equine feed samples collected by Florida investigators, one was positive for monensin and lasalocid. Four additional samples tested positive for monensin, according to results from The State of New York Department of Agriculture and Markets Food Laboratory.
Monensin and lasalocid are fed to cattle to promote efficient growth. The products are also sold under the brand names Rumensin and Bovatec, respectively, and are known to be deadly to horses.
In early 2014, Alltech promoted Lakeland Animal Nutrition’s newly renovated facility in Lakeland, Florida. Included in the $2 million upgrade was a quality assurance laboratory, where “feed and feed ingredients can be tested for quality control and traceability,” a press release stated at the time.
Lakeland Animal Nutrition announced this month it would no longer produce equine feed. The company’s General Manager, Jonathan Lang, released the following statement Tuesday to Rate My Horse PRO. It comes after he received confirmation late yesterday that monensin was present in its horse feed being fed at Masterpiece Equestrian Center.
“As a 95-year-old company that has built its business on a reputation of excellence and quality, we were grieved to hear of this news… There have been no further confirmed reports of any feed issues outside of Masterpiece Equestrian, and we believe the issue was isolated to feed that was distributed to that facility. We are currently re-examining all quality procedures and training to ensure all product meets the most rigorous of quality standards,” Lang says.
Erin Gillespie, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture, says the company could face sanctions. “We will evaluate these results while we complete our investigation, and should make a decision about any potential action taken against the feed company in about two weeks.”
“I think I’m even more shocked now than when we first found out,” says Debra Buis. She boards her daughters’ two horses at Masterpiece Equestrian Center, where three horses died from monensin toxicity, according to necropsies.
“They murdered the horses. This wasn’t one guy not doing his job on one day. It was a complete screw-up,” Buis says with frustration. “I don’t understand how other horses can’t be sick.”
Buis says 19 horses are ailing from the deadly toxin after being fed Lakeland Animal Nutrition’s horse feed. “They are failing. We are going to lose them.”
Buis says the horses are suffering from a variety of symptoms including severe weight loss, bloody noses, persistent coughs, and hind end weakness — and those are just the outward signs. The poison has already caused internal damage to some of the horses, including cardiac and renal failure, according to Buis’s veterinarian.
“The decision has not been made to euthanize any of the horses,” Buis says. “We are watching them hour by hour. If any become in distress, we will euthanize.”
“The bad news has gotten worse,” says attorney Andrew Yaffa, of Grossman Roth, P.A., in Coral Gables. Yaffa represents Buis and the majority of the horse owners at the stable. “This may prove bigger than just Masterpiece — I have been contacted by horse owners that had horses die around the same time — and they were feeding Lakeland brand feed. I can’t say this is limited to the one farm.”
Yaffa tells Rate My Horse PRO he has spoken with general counsel for Alltech and their discussions continue.
“Care of the animal and our customers’ trust are paramount to us, and we are committed to working with the Masterpiece Equestrian family to bring restoration in the midst of their tragic losses,” Lang from Lakeland Animal Nutrition says. “Although we can never replace their horses or take away the pain of this tragedy, we are working with their representatives to expedite a resolution.”
Yaffa says he is trying to reach an out of court settlement for his clients. “They need peace.”
Peace may not be easily attainable. “I think the next few months will be worst than now,” says Buis. “We love these horses. To euthanize unless medically necessary seems like an impossible choice.”
Stay with us as we continue to follow this story.