32 Horses in Andrew Palmer’s Barn Exposed to Monensin [Update 1/31: Blood Test Results Normal]

Andrew Palmer and Tatendrang at Fair Hill. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Andrew Palmer and Tatendrang at Fair Hill. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Thirty-two horses at Andrew Palmer’s Royal Palm Farm in Eufaula, Alabama have been exposed to the toxic substance monensin. Test results received this Wednesday from the Thompson-Bishop-Sparks State Diagnostic Laboratory at Auburn University detected monensin in ADM Alliance Nutrition Patriot Performance and Patriot Junior horse feed.

The feed was processed at the ADM plant in Cordele, GA and the lot numbers on the contaminated bags are: Patriot Performance #GA36414 and #GA35714, and Patriot Junior #GA34514.

Royal Palm Farm sent EN the following statement (bold is ours):

“It has come to our attention that the product that we feed the horses at Royal Palm Farm, manufactured by ADM Alliance Nutrition, contains the substance monensin. After submitting three samples of our feed for laboratory testing we were notified that monensin was present in all three samples. This result confirmed our fear that our horses have been exposed to this harmful substance.

“We take momentary comfort in the optimism of our team of veterinarians that our horses have not likely consumed a fatal amount of monensin. There is very little research of the long term effect monensin will have on horses at sub-lethal levels so we are entering fairly new territory as we begin testing and observation of our breeding stallions, pregnant mares and young stock to assess the damage this feed may have caused. As we find brief relief in the strength of our horses, it is now our hopes and dreams that hang in the balance. With no data to give us peace, and little documented research that tells us what to expect, we face many questions and anxiously await the answers. As always we are finding strength in the support of our community of friends, family and fellow horsemen.

The action of ADM Alliance Nutrition and their acknowledgement of this problem is past due. It is no longer a question of “IF” horses are affected, but “HOW” and our feeling is that they should be eager to help find those answers. It is owed to their customers and the horses that have been affected.

“At this time we know no more about other cases in the Southeast where monensin has been found in ADM feeds than the general public. We have received no information from ADM to know if those cases, which involve other ADM feeds, is in any way related to the ADM feed containing monensin that we received.”

This sad news comes on the heels of two other cases involving ADM horse feed. Contaminated feed was blamed for the deaths of three horses in South Carolina in early January, and EN reported on a case one week ago where contaminated feed was discovered in an eventing barn in Georgia. All cases are reported to involve feed manufactured at ADM’s Cordele location, which ADM claims to have recently received a glowing review from the FDA.

Testing Troponin Levels

Andrew told EN that blood was pulled from 14 horses of varying ages that have been eating ADM feed for the longest and shortest amount of time in the hopes that they will be able to somehow chart a baseline for what they are dealing with. These samples are being rushed to the University of Florida today to test troponin levels, and further testing such as echocardiograms will be scheduled as needed.

All affected horses that are in training at Royal Palm Farm have ceased work completely. There are many stallions, pregnant broodmares and young horses on the farm as well, however, and Andrew is concerned about how monensin exposure may affect these horses.

“There is no data that any of the vets or toxicologists can find that explains how it is metabolized in system,” Andrew said. “There is nothing on how pregnant mares or foals are affected. Young horses that are developing, growing and producing. Four international eventing stallions have been exposed. How does that limit them in the future?”

The University of Florida advised Andrew that testing troponin levels is an adequate indicator of the severity of monensin exposure because it points directly to cardiac stress and damage and that fit horses should not have elevated troponin levels while in work.

“UF has given us the most definitive plan of action,” Andrew said. “There are a lot of owners involved. It’s not just me and my personal horses. Everyone is looking for a vet to tell us ‘this is what you need to be doing.’ UF was the first to tell us that.”

Update On the Georgia Case

After speaking with Andrew, we followed up with Roslyn Johnson in Grantville, Georgia, whose Intermediate level event horse Beau had been exposed to monensin via ADM Patriot Performance 12-10 feed, along with several other horses in her barn and the surrounding area.

Luckily, none of the horses are showing signs of discomfort or illness aside from one horse treated for an unrelated impaction. They are continuing to monitor the horses closely, however, and blood samples have been pulled and tested regularly to track changes in troponin levels.

Blood results from samples taken Monday, January 26 showed that some horses with elevated levels of troponin last week were further elevated this week while others had slightly decreased. One horse that had previously shown normal levels of troponin is now elevated. None of the tested horses have been in work of any kind since the monensin was initially detected.

Roslyn has received the quantitative results from samples sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System after the Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health detected monensin in two out of three samples from three different feed bins on the Johnson farm. The results read:

“The amount of monensin detected in both feed samples was < 1 ppm (parts per million) but above 0.1 ppm. The detected amounts would not be considered toxic for horses. Low level presence of ionophores in feed not intended to contain them is not unusual and most likely reflects some inadvertent residues following feed processing.”

New Statement on ADM Website

One week ago, an undated statement on the ADM website read:

“ADM Alliance Nutrition is aware of the recent comments on social media and some news outlets concerning ADM Alliance 12% horse feed and its alleged link to deaths of horses.

“We take this matter very seriously and are working with authorities to investigate these horses’ deaths. We’re not aware that authorities have made any determination as to what caused the deaths, and based on our investigation to date, we have not found any evidence that our horse feed caused or contributed to these deaths.

“The single sample of our horse feed tested for our customer at Michigan State University was negative for ionophores (monensin) at the detection limits for the test. We have sent additional samples for testing and will share information as soon as it’s available.”

Since then, the website has been updated with this undated statement (bold is ours):

“At ADM Alliance Nutrition, we are committed to providing safe and nutritious feed and feed ingredients. So, when we became aware of the allegation that our product was involved in these horses’ deaths, we reached out directly to the farm’s owner.

“We reviewed the test results provided to us by the farm’s owner, and we sent 14 samples of our feed to a third-party laboratory for testing. Every sample tested negative for monensin at the detection limits for the respective tests. Any trace amounts of monensin in the feed present below the detection limits of these tests would not be toxic to horses. We have seen no evidence that implicates our horse feed in these animals’ deaths.

“In addition, inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration spent three days at our manufacturing facility in Cordele, Georgia, evaluating our quality-assurance and production records and procedures. The FDA has not raised any concerns about our facility, our products or our processes. If you have questions about your ADM feed, please contact us at [email protected].”

Regardless of whether the levels of monensin are minimal, the fact remains that the substance is toxic to horses and should not be found in horse feed at all, in any amount. There is simply too much risk involved. Monensin detection in horse feed should not be considered “not unusual” or acceptable in any capacity.

We are heartbroken for the horse owners experiencing this trauma. We will keep you informed as further information becomes available.

[Update 1/31/2015: It was announced this morning on the Royal Palm Farm Facebook page that the preliminary blood test results for the 14 horses tested by the University of Florida yesterday came back with normal troponin levels. While this is a huge relief, RPF writes that they are not 100% out of the woods and the horses will be monitored closely for 30 days.

“We are all ‘cautiously optimistic’ that we may have dodged a bullet and our horses were not exposed to enough of monensin to do permanent damage. The problem is that sometimes horses are ‘normal’ for a while and a few weeks later develop problems. We also have no idea if there are long term effects to the in utero foals, young horses etc.”

The eventing stallion Tatendrang will return to work today and will tentatively remain on schedule for his first horse trials of the year two weeks from now.

“We will monitor all vitals (esp the heart rate) daily. He will have additional blood drawn end of this week/beg of next and will be evaluated by a vet prior to running. If there are ANY abnormalities he will be scratched, if he is cleared he will run but it will be a conservative run.”]