5 Horses Dead
“This was a detrimental mistake. I’m shocked they haven’t made it right,” Kaycee MacGibbon of Running M Performance Horses says.
The North Carolina barrel racer is living with the deadly consequences of contaminated horse feed from Bartlett Milling Company. Five of her horses are dead and another five, including a mare-in-foal, persist with irreparable damage.
An investigation by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDACS) determined the horse feed manufactured by Bartlett Milling was contaminated with monensin, due to human error. The agency’s investigation found the equine feed was adulterated when monensin, intended for cattle feed, was prematurely hand dumped into the mixer. The mill hand dumps all medications, which is permitted in the state.
The producer of horse and other types of animal feed, including medicated, is located in Statesville. The company issued a voluntary recall of two horse feeds, Bartlett Pasture and Cleveland Carolina Champion on November 1, 2014. The recall stated both were distributed in multiple eastern states and “were being recalled due to a possible Rumensin contamination.” Rumensin is the brand name for monensin, a highly poisonous substance to horses.
Lab results from NCDACS Food and Drug Protection Division Laboratory showed Cleveland Carolina Champion, lot 288, was positive for monensin from 369 to 605 grams per ton, depending on the bag tested. On the low end, that is nine times the maximum recommended feed rate for cattle. The animals are fed monensin as a growth promoting agent. According to the company that manufactures Rumensin, cattle should not ingest more than 40 grams per ton.
Tests show Hi-E 11:10 Pellet, another of the company’s horse feeds contained 4 grams per ton of monensin. It was not part of the recall.
According to Jennifer Godwin, NCDACS Assistant Director of Field Enforcement Programs, “Bartlett Milling Company will no longer allow horse feeds and multi-purpose feeds to immediately proceed or follow any medicated feed.” The company is also being subjected to additional inspections.
No sanctions were levied against Bartlett Milling by the state.
A letter received by MacGibbon in November from William Webster, Vice President of the General Partner, Bartlett International, Inc. says, “we remain committed to reasonably compensate you for this unfortunate loss.” The letter included information for the company’s insurance administrator to handle the claim.
“They’re trying to bury me in paperwork, hoping I’ll give up,” MacGibbon says.
Two of MacGibbon’s horses died within days of eating the toxic batch of Cleveland Carolina Champion. Included was her daughter’s irreplaceable calf roping horse. “He would drag his feet to her because he couldn’t walk,” MacGibbon says of Roho. “He fought to stay alive. He loved her so much.”
MacGibbon adds, “three suffered horribly and were euthanized.”
Symptoms of monensin poisoning in horses may include colic, sweating, muscle wasting, bloating, kidney failure, damage to the heart, respiratory distress, stiffness, the inability to stand, and ultimately death. The level of toxicity is dose and individual dependent.
MacGibbon purchased a new barrel horse in August 2014 named Sis Famenfirewater (Lil Sis). In their short time together, she says the mare outran horses that cost more than $150,000. The “pro caliber barrel horse” has been permanently damaged from the monensin poisoning. The blood of Dash Ta Fame and Firewater Flit’s races through her veins, but the mare — once destined for barrel racing greatness — is losing weight and has muscle atrophy.
“I miss my Lil Sis,” MacGibbon reiterates. “She’s supposed to be in my trailer when I pull out of my driveway, she’s supposed to be running at shows and rodeos. She is not supposed to be standing in a stall done and retired at 7-years-old because of some idiot’s careless mistake.”
MacGibbon’s horses are now nourished by horse feed produced by a company that advertises a horse only production line. “I researched to make sure.”
We contacted Webster from Bartlett International, Inc. He said he had no comment for this article.