Feed manufacturer settles with horse owners after fatal monensin poisoning
After the deaths of multiple horses at Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie, Florida, Lakeland Animal Nutrition has reached a settlement with horse owners and the owners of the ranch. Although the terms and conditions of the settlement are confidential, sources say compensation is "considerable."
"The company did everything they said they would when it came to making this situation right," says lawyer Andrew Yaffa, representing Masterpiece and horse owners. He says it's rare to see a company fully accept responsibility and stand by its word. "I was actually shocked."
The horses boarded at the high-level training school for show and jumping horses were worth anywhere from $35,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars; the ranch also claimed lost business revenue. Lakeland has agreed to cover business-related claims, plus the cost of all veterinary care and replacement of horses when owners are ready emotionally to do so, Yaffa says.
In all, 20 horses were sickened by the feed. Now more than half are dead and Yaffa says the remaining horses are in various stages of deteriorating health. Settlement payouts will be individually tailored to fit the needs of each horse owner.
Independent tests and tests conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture confirmed that samples of the feed were tainted with monensin and some with monensin and lasolocid. The medications are commonly added to cattle feed to promote growth but are toxic to horses.
Lakeland initially recalled its horse feed but ultimately moved to permanently halt production of equine feed entirely. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services found in its investigation of the poisonings that the "cleanout" procedure necessary when switching from mixing a medicated to nonmedicated feed was not executed in this instance.
Lakeland batching-run summary reports have revealed that the manufacturer produced Graham Farms Far Off Dry Cow Mineral Med R w/IGR feed Sept. 15, 2014, and Equilete Pellet Formula, lot No. 25914, the following day without a cleanout. The Graham Farms feed contained monensin. Samples tested of the Equilete feed contained 1.48 G/ton of monensin and 1.20 G/ton of lasalocid. Medicated feed was also produced before the production of Status Pellet Formula, lot No. 28014, manufactured on Oct. 6, 2014. Testing found samples of Status feed contained 271.096 G/ton of monensin.
The Florida Department of Agriculture fined Lakeland $4,000—the maximum fine of $1,000 per violation of adulterating, mislabeling and distributing the feed. Erin Gillespie, press secretary for the Florida agency, says the department has not received any additional reports of horse illnesses or deaths related to the tainted Lakeland feed.