September 14, 2001
LEXINGTON, KY.

Results were released today of an in-depth survey of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS) on 133 farms in Kentucky conducted by scientists at the University of Kentucky and USDA veterinarians. The survey results further define environmental risk factors that are associated with MRLS. Researchers also have examined weather conditions to determine how unusual climatic changes might also have been involved.

Aside from the weather conditions, which impacted all farms surveyed, the study found three factors associated with increased incidence of MRLS:

· A breeding date in February 2001

· Moderate to high concentrations of caterpillars in mare areas

· Presence of cherry trees around fields in which mares were pastured

A fourth factor identified in the survey is the presence of more than 50 mares on the farm, but the study noted that larger farm size (more than 50 mares) would likely mean a larger number of barren and maiden mares present on those farms, and therefore a larger percentage of mares being bred during February.

Only two factors were associated with a low incidence or no incidence of MRLS:

· Absence of caterpillars

· Feeding hay to mares in pastures

"Although the toxicological and biochemical mechanisms of MRLS have not yet been fully defined, the definition of risk factors will allow us to develop effective risk management plans," said Scott Smith, dean of the UK College of Agriculture.

Based upon survey results, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners, Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club, and Kentucky Thoroughbred Association will:

1. Complete and distribute written recommendations for farm managers

2. Develop a specific plan for environmental monitoring prior to and during future breeding seasons

3. Complete the first steps in formation of a comprehensive emergency management plan applicable to any future health challenges to the equine industry, including weather monitoring

Smith said the University of Kentucky and other groups plan to complete these measures in the next four to six weeks. In addition, according to Smith, funding received recently from Governor Patton's Agricultural Development Board and the Grayson-Jockey Foundation will allow for expansion of investigations into both the epidemiological and clinical aspects of MRLS.

A summary of the study, prepared by the University of Kentucky Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, credited the cooperation of farm owners, managers and their staffs; the survey team of state and federal veterinarians and technical staffs; volunteer veterinarians and trained individuals for making the survey possible. It further cited the contributions of the USDA veterinarians on the federal and state levels as being critical in providing the expertise needed in survey development, data entry, and analysis.

"The survey is the result of an unmatched cooperative effort and it just shows what tremendous resources the Central Kentucky equine industry has at its fingertips," said Steve Johnson, President of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club. "It is safe to say the potential threat of such an unusual weather pattern is now well known and we feel very confident that the many resources available to us here will monitor risk factors and weather in the future and provide warnings if conditions indicate potential danger."

"The good news is that there are no signs that the current pregnancies are at risk and, based upon the experiences of 1980 and 1981, when we had reported early fetal losses and similar weather patterns, there are no signs that mares who aborted pregnancies this spring will have any adverse effects from the loss of their pregnancy. These mares are not expected to experience any difficulty in getting back in foal next year," observed Roger Murphy, DVM and President of the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners. "The even better news is that we can take measures to manage risk of this convergence of factors in the future."

The summary and survey report from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture can be accessed from their website at: http:// www.ca.uky.edu.