It’s a story seen all too often lately in the United States – recalls. There have been recalls of everything imaginable from cars to toys to human produce and meats, and to animal feeds. The focus of this article is the recurring problem of monensin in horse feeds and the resulting havoc at once-thriving horse farms, in this case Black Fence Farms near Clovis, CA. It was Western Milling that produced the horse feed purchased by Black Fence Farms back in September that poisoned and killed horses. The horse watch at Black Fence Farms continues even now, Nov. 13 and beyond, since every horse – all 49 animals – have been affected by monensin poisoning and 13 horses have died to date.
It is high time that horse feed manufacturers come to grips with their procedures and processes. The mistakes made at milling companies, lack of cleanliness with equipment, careless procedures, lack of quality control and slovenly practices cost horse lives. According to Florida attorney Andrew Yaffa of Grossman Roth, P.A., during an interview, the problems that occurred at Western Milling in September are much more common than horse caretakers realize.
Yaffa represents the owner of Black Fence Farms, a horse ranch and riding facility east of Clovis. All of the horses remaining at the facility are in danger from the monensin-tainted feed, and some are more severely affected than others. At least 13 horses have died already since ingesting the tainted feeds from Western Milling.
Monensin [an ionophore] is primarily used to feed cattle for feed efficiency improvement. During the milling process, as cattle feeds are switched over to formulate horse feeds, cross-contamination can occur and mistakes also happen from human error. It is important for everyone – milling companies, employees and horse people – to understand that monensin is highly toxic to horses, affecting heart and skeletal muscles. Toxicity levels depend on the amount fed to a horse and the individual horse’s physical constitution. Symptoms of monensin poisoning include stiffness, imbalance, inability to stand, colic, sweating, kidney failure, damage to the heart, bloating, respiratory problems, muscle wasting. Death from monensin in a horse is dreadful.
A recall by Western Milling, a subsidiary of O.H. Kruse Grain & Milling Company, was made on Sept. 25 for Western Blend Horse Feed [lot 5251]. The company said little more than the feed was “potentially” contaminated with monensin and that it had been supplied to California and Arizona.
California Department of Food and Agriculture [CDFA] investigated and confirmed in the October 2015 Animal Health Branch Newsletter that tainted feed caused the horse deaths.
All of the recalled Western Blend Horse 50# Lot 5251 was placed under CDFA quarantine, including the recalled bulk feed from the same lot. To date, six (6) horses that consumed this adulterated product have died or been euthanized. CDFA continues to work closely with FDA on this investigation. Note: As of this writing 13 horses have now died!
Yaffa wants horse people to become more knowledgeable about monensin toxicity. However, it is really impossible to prevent such poisonings because monensin is readily eaten by horses and, once eaten, it is too late already. In addition, monensin has no odor, no altered appearance, and visible inspection cannot find it. Horse people must depend solely on the reputation, feed quality and track record of feed companies. Yaffa also stated,
We again have an entire stable of horses that have been dealt a death sentence because of tainted feed… This is yet another preventable tragedy that has repeated itself.
Shamefully, many horses have died and this is the fourth case of monensin- poisoned feed publicized in the United States since fall of 2014 including Masterpiece Equestrian Center, which was also represented by Yaffa and a settlement was reached in a reasonable timeframe.
According to those involved with the Black Fence horse deaths and Western Milling’s monensin poisoning fiasco, there has been no settlement, no restitution, nor has Western Milling, its president Kevin Kruse or anyone else helped Katie Flanigan, Black Fence Farms’ owner, or her stable stay afloat or assist with related medical expenses. “’This is a plea for help,’ said Yaffa, explaining that he wants Western Milling’s owners to help keep Flanigan’s ranch from going under, as the business has been ‘paralyzed’ by the sick and dying horses.”
Flanigan, through no fault of her own, has been thrust into an absolute horse business nightmare, watching one horse after another fall prey to monensin and have to be euthanized. It is the belief of everyone that the company must accept responsibility for what has occurred. Yaffa said,
They appear to acknowledge their mistake and [are] wanting to do right by these folks. But time will tell how sincere these gestures are.
Yaffa notes that settlement to individual horse owners in an agreement depends entirely on a case-by-case basis.