On June 9, several horses at a horse farm in Minnesota were fed as usual. One month later, 6 horses were dead, and the FDA is investigating.
Just a few short hours after feeding, 1 horse was found down in the stall, unable to stand. A mere 2 days later, that horse had to be humanely euthanized.
On June 12, the farm owner discovered 2 more of his horses down in the field. Later that day, 1 of the horses died and the other was discovered dead the following morning.
As the month progressed, 3 more horses died.
The FDA investigated and found that contaminated feed from the Gilman Co-op Creamery, located in Gilman, Minnesota, was the cause of the horses’ deaths. A batch of food mixed only for the horse farm in question contained a drug called monensin, which is highly toxic to horses.
The Animal Drug Monensin
Monensin is a drug used primarily in chicken and cattle feeds. The FDA defines it as “an ionophore animal drug approved for use in cattle and poultry feed to increase feed efficiency and prevent coccidial infections.”
In essence, this drug is a type of antibiotic administered to control parasites and is widely used by poultry and cattle farmers.
However, while cattle and poultry generally have no issues ingesting the drug, monensin is highly toxic to horses and — as we have sadly seen — can be fatal.
Horses given the drug suffer terribly and are often euthanized to save pain and suffering. The rare horse who does live through exposure may sustain damage to the muscles, including the heart, and usually does not ever fully recover.
How It Happened
When the report came in about the horses’ untimely deaths, the FDA immediately launched an investigation, quickly discovering the presence of monensin in the feed. The FDA backtracked it to the Gilman Co-op Creamery.
Further investigation revealed that on the day the food was manufactured, the company had manufactured feed intended for cattle and chicken prior to mixing up the horse feed, and employees did not clean out the equipment as thoroughly as they should have and per FDA guideline.
A simple cleaning issue — and 6 horses are now dead.
The FDA states that this particular batch of feed was made only for the horse farm in question and that there is no chance there are other batches of contaminated feed from this incident. The FDA continues to investigate and promises to take appropriate action regarding the contaminated feed.
While it’s a relief to know that this will not suddenly become a nationwide issue, it is perhaps cold comfort for the farmer who lost 6 of his horses.
As of now, there is no word on the Gilman Co-op Creamery’s website or Facebook page regarding the issue. Gilman’s general manager, Adam Bonovsky states, the allegations made by the FDA have not been proven and that lab results on the feed have not yet been returned.