After six horses died from eating alfalfa contaminated with blister beetles, North Carolina officials say they have determined a single load of 500 bales from Kansas was the source of the problem. The hay was delivered the Murphy Hay and Feed in Louisburg on August 11th.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirms the bales from the tainted load were bound with a reddish-orange twine. Murphy Farm Hay and Feed sold much of the hay at retail. The alfalfa was also distributed to Jones Farm Hay and Feed in Middlesex. No other North Carolina locations received hay from this Kansas farm.
Toxicology tests confirmed the presence of cantharidin, the poisonous substance found in blister beetles. Six horse deaths have been confirmed due to the contaminated alfalfa.
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said, “we are continuing to reach out to all customers that may have purchased hay from either store as we attempt to account for the distribution of the entire load.”
Customers who purchased alfalfa hay, bound with a reddish-orange twine, bought on or after August 11th from either location, are encouraged to stop using it immediately and return it to the location where purchased.
A load of hay, containing about 500 bales, is contaminated with the striped blister beetle. A visual inspection of the contaminated hay shows dead blister beetles.
Blister beetle is not common in North Carolina, according to officials. Cattle, dogs, goats, sheep, and horses may be affected, with horses being more sensitive to the toxin.
Feed affected by the toxin may or may not have visible beetles in it. Veterinarians recommend horse owners should monitor their animals and contact their veterinarian if any of these signs are observed: inflammation, colic, straining, elevated temperature, depression, blood in the urine, increased heart rate and respiration, dehydration, sweating, diarrhea, and death.
When asked about the location and name of the Kansas farm that produced the contaminated hay, we were referred to the FDA since it deals with interstate commerce.
As a result, the hay masked the less palatable toxic plant. Commonly called "horsetail," horses are highly susceptible to illness or death due to equisetum toxicity when consumed in large amounts.
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