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Cause of Foal Deaths Still Mystery

May 18, 2001

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ Early samples from pasture grasses have provided no clue to the mystery illness that is killing newborn horses in the state, researchers said Thursday.

A report on the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Web site Thursday afternoon also indicated equine tissue and blood samples taken over the past three weeks have shown no evidence of infectious or contagious diseases.

Calls to the college for comment were not immediately returned Thursday night.

As of Thursday afternoon, 486 aborted or stillborn fetuses and foals had been taken to the college’s livestock disease diagnostic center since April 28, many times higher than normal. Nine were received between noon Wednesday and noon Thursday.

In searching for a cause, scientists have focused on possible mycotoxins produced by fungal organisms in pasture grass. More than 100 pasture samples have been taken and 70 percent are being processed, the report said.

Meanwhile, farm owners and managers are experiencing fewer problem births and early term miscarriages than they were two weeks ago.

``We’ve had 15 live foals in a row that have been healthy,″ said Frank Taylor, general manager of Taylor Made Farm. ``Prior to that we had a streak of about two weeks where we had 28 foals and lost seven of them.″

Industry officials have been looking into the possibility of federal aid for horse farms that have been hit hard by the syndrome.

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On the Net:

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: http://www.ca.uky.edu

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