CT_Mrls_ky0501

Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome_ Kentucky 5_23_01

CEI LogoMare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, Kentucky

Impact Worksheet, May 23, 2001


Summary:

A situation in Kentucky, termed Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, or MRLS, has presented with early fetal losses, late abortions, and births of weak foals. The rate of aborted fetuses and stillborn foals submitted for diagnosis is six to seven times higher than normal. The cause has not been determined, nor has it been determined if MRLS is limited to Central Kentucky.

In 1999, Kentucky ranked 8th in the US in terms of equine inventory. However, Kentucky had by far the highest value of sales, accounting for 37 percent of the total US value of equine sales. The US Thoroughbred breeding industry is concentrated in Kentucky and serves not only the North American, but increasingly the world market. Kentucky had a 34 percent share of total US Thoroughbred breeding mares in 1998 and produced 29 percent of the total US Thoroughbred foal crop.

How extensive is the situation in Kentucky?

From April 28 to May 23, 2001, a total of 532 aborted equine fetuses or stillborn foals has been submitted to the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center for evaluation. Two syndromes were observed among affected mares in central Kentucky: (1) fetal loss at 40-80 days gestation, and (2) late gestation stillbirth, some with premature placental separation, or "red bag" deliveries. The neonates born alive have weakness and difficulty breathing; some foals improved initially, but later developed neurologic signs and respiratory distress prior to death. These signs are being called Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, or MRLS. Early fetal losses, late-term abortions, and births of weak foals appear to be linked to the same causal agents. Details of mare breeding records identified April 17 to April 23 as the time of the critical insult giving rise to the syndrome.

The rate of aborted fetuses and stillborn foals submitted to the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center for diagnosis was six to seven times higher than normal. As one indicator, 418 submissions were received between April 28 to May 12. During that same period last year, only 60 submissions were received. A University of Kentucky survey of 159 Thoroughbred farm managers indicated that 678, or 21 percent, of 3,294 pregnant mares on their premises had experienced early fetal loss. There is no evidence that the condition is infectious.

At least 50 cases of pericarditis (fluid in the pericardial membrane) and 20 cases of uveitis (painful swollen eye with discharge) have also been recognized. Currently it is unknown what if any relationship exists between the early and late fetal losses and these cardiac and eye cases.

Scientific investigation continues, as of May 22, to determine the cause of MRLS. The University of Kentucky, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, local veterinary practitioners, and private equine consultants are collaborating. University of Kentucky has established teams focused on investigation into prevalence of the problem; epidemiologic studies to help identify potential causes; farm inspections and field sampling; livestock disease diagnoses; and finances and liaison with USDA. USDA-APHIS actions planned or underway as of May 21 include assisting with analysis of data collected on diagnostic laboratory submissions in the state; assisting with design and implementation of field investigations; and identifying other State and private laboratories for testing samples.

Media reports that other eastern or midwestern states might be affected by MRLS remained unconfirmed as of May 21. Although clinical reports in Ohio indicated that MRLS may be present in some southern counties, diagnostic lab submissions were not available to confirm whether losses to this year’s foal crop were abnormally high.

Sources: University of Kentucky web site; Bloodhorse.com; New York Times, internal APHIS communications ; telephone communication with officials at (1) Kentucky Department of Agriculture and (2) Ohio State University

The US and Kentucky horse industries

Total equine inventory in the US on January 1, 1999 was estimated at 5.32 million head (Table 1). Domestic equids include horses, ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys. Of the total US equine population in January 1998, 88 percent were horses, 5 percent were ponies, and about 6 percent were mules, donkeys, burros, or miniature horses.

Nationally, the primary function of 55 percent of all operations with equids in 1997 was residential, where equids were kept for personal use. Farming or ranching was the primary function of 33 percent of operations with equids. Breeding farms accounted for 5 percent of operations and 15 percent of equids. Ninety (90) percent of all operations with equids reported using pasture for 3 months or more during 1997.

The states with the largest equine inventory were TX, CA, TN, FL, OK, and PA. Although Kentucky ranked 8th in terms of inventory, Kentucky ranked 1st in sales and accounted for 37 percent of the total US value of equine sales.

Table 1: Number of equine, number sold, and value of sales, 1 January 1999

Number of equine
(1,000 head)

Number sold
(1,000 head)

Value of sales
($1,000)

US total

5,317.4

557.6

1,753,996

Kentucky

155.0

28.0

650,000

The Kentucky horse industry is unique in the US. Horse values in Kentucky are high due in part to extensive Thoroughbred breeding programs in Kentucky that serve the North American and world markets. Kentucky had a 34 percent share of total US Thoroughbred breeding mares in 1998 and produced 29 percent of the total US Thoroughbred foal crop. The Thoroughbred breeding industry in Kentucky is clustered around Lexington and serves not only the North American, but increasingly the world market.

Horses/mules represented Kentucky’s #1 agricultural commodity in 1999, accounting for 24 percent of the state’s total farm receipts and 89 percent of the total US value of this commodity. Financial implications from MRLS for elements of the Kentucky and/or US equine industries include those associated with foal loss (fetal, stillborn, neonate); fees (stud, sales, training, boarding, racing, and showing); management (veterinary services, treatments, transport, operations, feeds and hay); research; employment; and indirect effects generated from spending by the horse industry throughout the rest of the country.

Sources: USDA-NASS; USDA-APHIS-VS, NAHMS; USDA-ERS; Bloodhorse.com ; USDA-APHIS internal report on Contagious Equine Metritis

US Horse exports

US exports of horses in 2000 totaled 75,838 with a value of $422 million. Kentucky’s horse exports, valued at $294.1 million, accounted for 70 percent of the total US export value. Horse exports included race horses transported overseas to participate in races, and then transported back home. The top five countries to which horses were exported from the US were, in rank order, Canada, Japan, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Australia.

Source: World Trade Atlas , www.bloodhorse.com

CEI’s plans for follow up:

As needed, CEI will provide further information regarding consequences of this outbreak. If you seek more information or wish to comment on this worksheet, contact Chris Kopral (970-490-7819) or David Cummings (970-490-7895).

Complementary Content
${loading}