May 25 MRLS Update

Following is from the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture as of Friday, May 25, at 5 p.m. More information can be found on their web site at <A

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Following is from the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture as of Friday, May 25, at 5 p.m. More information can be found on their web site at

We are able to report significant recent progress in accounting for Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS). Observations to date implicate cyanide or cyanogenic compounds as the causal agent. Wild black cherry trees are the likely source of these toxins. Limited recent imply the Eastern Tent Caterpillars may be directly or indirectly involved in the delivery of cyanogenic compounds to horses.

We want to emphasize that the current observations are preliminary, must be confirmed, and that further validation is absolutely essential. We have not yet met reasonable standards of scientific proof. Information summary briefs from several of the presentations made at the Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome Information Sharing Meeting held yesterday at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion are posted to our web-site. In addition, several audio files of sound clips from the speakers are also posted. A replay of the entire meeting is also provided by a link with

There are several suggested recommendations from UK Extension Specialists for Pastures and Forages, Dr. Jimmy Henning and Dr. Garry Lacefield for horse producers as follows:

1. It should be considered safe to turn horses back out to pasture.

2. Mow pastures to dislodge any larvae or caterpillar
excrement from the leaves.

3. Do not confine horses in small areas that are surrounded by wild cherry trees.

4. Using temporary fencing to skirt off fence line areas next to high numbers of wild cherry trees may provide an extra level of safety.

Hay recommendations:

1. Fusarium mycotoxins were not found in any first cutting hay made before May 6th. It is therefore highly unlikely that properly cured hay from first or subsequent cuttings in Kentucky will cause any mycotoxin-related problems in horses.

2. Because of the possible presence of Eastern Tent Caterpillars in first cutting hay, producers should cull any hay from fields that had significant numbers of wild cherry trees in the proximity. This decision have to be made by the producer on a field by field basis.

3. Hay fields that are surrounded by cherry trees should be scouted for the presence of larvae or cocoons prior to cutting.

4. Future cuttings from these fields are considered safe because there would be no larvae or cocoons present. For more information on the life cycle of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar go to the following web-site:

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The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care is an equine publication providing the latest news and information on the health, care, welfare, and management of all equids.

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