The Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry (LDAF), in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory (CAHFS), has confirmed the presence of Clostridium botulinum type C in alfalfa hay cubes linked to the death of at least 20 horses in Louisiana. This incident, which has evolved into a multi-state epizootic of Equine Botulism linked to the same alfalfa hay cubes, has also been connected to at least 28 similar horse deaths in New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado, with many other horses becoming clinically ill.
Equine Botulism is a condition caused from a bacterial toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum. In this incident, the condition was likely caused from direct ingestion of the toxin produced by the vegetative bacteria through contamination of the alfalfa hay cubes.
The FDA began their investigation, in conjunction with state departments, after reports that horses in Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas showed neurologic symptoms consistent with botulism. During LDAF’s investigation, LDAF Investigators received information of possible alfalfa hay cube adulteration with animal remains. LDAF Investigators subsequently confirmed the presence of animal remains in an unopened 50 lb. bag of “Top of the Rockies Alfalfa Horse Cubes” (Lot # 111422), produced by Manzanola Feeds LLC, a feed manufacturing firm in Manzanola, CO. This finding indicated that material from an animal or animals may have been incorporated into the cubes during alfalfa harvesting. Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism, is commonly present in decaying animal carcasses.