Bartlett Milling Company in Kansas City, Missouri has initiated a limited recall of certain horse feeds which may be affected by Rumensin contamination. The products were distributed to customers and retailers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Rumensin contamination can result in health problems, including mortality, in horses.
What should you do if you suspect you have purchased contaminated feed?
The products and lot number involved in the recall are:
• 50 lb. bags of Bartlett Pasture Horse 10 Feed – Lot 288
• 50 lb. bags of Cleveland Carolina Champion Horse Feed – Lot 288
The recalled products were packaged in typical brand-specific feed bags. Lot numbers are printed on the front and back of each bag.
Retailers have been contacted and instructed to immediately withdraw from sale the recalled product and to notify customers who purchased the product. Customers should discontinue feeding the product immediately. Customers who purchased this product should return remaining bags to their retailers.
For more information on the product recall, contact Bartlett Milling at 1-800-438-6016 from 8AM to 5PM Monday through Friday. Contact Bartlett at 1-336-655-1840 outside of regular business hours.
This recall is being conducted with the knowledge of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and the United States Food and Drug Administration.
More about Rumensin and its effect on horses
Technically, Rumensin is a trade name for monensin. This weekend's recall is the third in four years by US feed mills (see links below). In spite of the perceived frequency of the accidental contamination incidents, more horses are harmed on farms where cattle feed may be accidentally ingested than through contamination from feed mills.
The Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada reviewed the effects of the additive on horses in a 2012 article by Myrna MacDonald, which is excerpted here.
It seems harmless for your horse to eat a handful of spilt cattle feed. But if the feed contains even small amounts of an additive called monensin, it could be a fatal mistake for your horse.
Remensin (monensin) is a growth-enhancing feed additive for beef and dairy cattle and poultry in Canada and the U.S. It also helps to control a parasitic disease called coccidiosis. Cattle and poultry can ingest relatively high levels of monensin in their feed without any negative impact on their health. But for horses, it’s a different story.
Cattle can tolerate 20 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg), body weight, of monensin in their feed rations without any problems, whereas the toxic dose in horses is about 2.0 mg of monensin per kg, body weight. That’s about the same as a toxic dose of cyanide so it’s pretty toxic stuff,” explains WCVM veterinary toxicologist Dr. Barry Blakley.
“Any time a horse gets exposed to monensin, it’s a problem.”
Monensin is an ionophore — a chemical that affects the transport of ions in the various cell membranes. This ability makes monensin capable of controlling the parasite coccidia in chickens and other animals, but it also makes it deadly for horses. While it does affect many systems, its main impact is on the animal’s muscles — especially the heart.
In a healthy horse, natural ion fluxes of sodium and potassium allow for the contractility of the heart. Monensin disrupts those ion fluxes, causing the horse’s heart to work improperly and leading to eventual cardiovascular collapse.
Why is monensin so toxic to horses in comparison to other livestock? Scientists still don’t know the exact reason, but the feed industry has been aware of monensin’s devastating effect on horses since it was first introduced as a feed additive in the mid-1970s.
While it’s illegal to mix monensin in any horse rations, Blakley says accidental poisonings occur when there’s a mixing error at a feed mill.
Overall, only a small percentage of monensin poisoning cases are caused by contaminated horse feed. The more common scenario is a horse accidentally eating cattle feed containing the additive. For example, Blakley says monensin poisonings have occurred most commonly at beef cattle feedlots where working horses may be exposed to spilled cattle feed by accident.
What Blakley hopes is that increased public awareness of monensin and its deadly effects on horses will make owners more vigilant about keeping livestock feed separate and to not assume that what’s good for cattle and poultry must be good for horses.
Thanks to Western College of Veterinary Medicine for their explanation of this important difference between horse feed and cattle or poultry feed. Not all cattle and poultry feed contains Rumensin (monensin).
To learn more:
FDA Feed Recall Announcement, Wyoming/Nebraska Horse Feed May Contain Monensin Sodium, Fatal to Horses (2012 article from The Jurga Report)
FDA Announces Voluntary Recall of Some Bags of Manna Pro’s "Family Farm Complete" Horse Feed in Western States (2011 article from The Jurga Report)