March 21, 2002 | By: Haven Miller

Early reports from veterinary visits to central Kentucky horse farms indicate a normal foaling season so far.

"Mares have been cycling normally and conception rates have been good," said Stuart Brown, veterinarian with Hagyard-Davidson-McGee clinic. "Farms that were affected by MRLS and had early fetal loss are doing well with their mares that are currently foaling."

Brown emphasized this is good news for farm owners and managers and should help alleviate worries that 2001's Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome would cause long-term health or fertility problems for either mares or foals who survived MRLS.

"There was concern that mares who remained in foal last year might have problems with placental function or deliver smaller than normal foals, but recently I saw a couple of mares that were mildly affected (with MRLS) that have now delivered good-sized foals," Brown said.

Brown said ultrasound tests last year showed some mares to have more placental "debris" than would be considered normal for a particular stage of gestation. He said many of those same mares are doing fine this year.

Fertility in mares affected by MRLS last year does not appear to be adversely affected. Reports from many breeding farms in the area indicate mares that lost their foals from MRLS in 2001 do not appear to have difficulty conceiving this season.

Brown cautioned that monitoring continues to be critical.

"So everyone will continue to monitor weather patterns and fields and forages and we'll try to stay a step ahead of anything that looks suspicious," he said.

The MRLS monitoring program is now in operation on selected farms. A University of Kentucky monitoring team has begun tracking weather patterns, and also is collecting and testing samples of soil, grass and other indicators that may have been associated with the occurrence of MRLS in 2001.

"Everything is looking fine so far and that's encouraging," said Jimmy Henning, UK Extension agronomist and monitoring program supervisor. "We're refining the process of our data handling, data reporting, and assays and lab work and will have all the rough edges knocked off by early April."

Henning said data from horses is also being collected so that it can be paired-up against pasture information in the event of anything unusual occurring. UK scientists continue their research to determine the cause of MRLS.


Stuart Brown, 859-255-8741; Jimmy Henning, 859-257-3144