The owners of a corral in Scott County where more than 50 wild horses were reported to have died last week have denied that any wrongdoing on their part could have led to the incident. Since then the number of reported horse deaths has risen to 75.
After investigations at the facility, located East of U.S. Highway 83 on Road 70 in Scott County, findings by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) indicate the main reason the mostly older horses died was the stress they suffered after being moved from their original pasture to the corral. Their feeding and crowding issues also were considered as factors.
Some of the horses at the corral, managed by Beef Belt LLC, were found down and were euthanized because it was determined they could not get back up, according to Paul McGuire, BLM’s public affairs specialist.
“It is also true that the horses could have been affected by the food mix, as well as the quantity of the feeds,” McGuire said.
The Bureau of Land Management reported last week that it had started investigating a case in which 57 wild horses died at a corral in Scott County, Kansas.
Reports indicated the horses were transferred from a range managed by the BLM because an open-pasture contractor had reported he would not be taking on all the 47,300 horses that he had previously been managing. The Bureau then sought another place where the 1,900 animals (1,500 mares and 400 geldings) could go, as they had to leave by June 1, 2014.
The manager of the corral, Steven Landgraf, one of the owners of Lakin Feed Yard, which specializes in corrals just like the one in Scott County, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the staff at the corral.
“We did our best to take care of them. It is not like we did not do our job,” Landgraf said. “As animals get older, they die. The animals that have died have all been between 19 and 20 years old. It is a fact of life; how do you say this without being cruel?”
Landgraf explained further that the organization has cows and buffaloes that die there frequently.
“It is normal to have 4 percent or 5 percent of deaths with cattle, so this does not really count as out of the ordinary,” he said. “There were 1,490 of them that came in, and, if these few died, it shouldn’t be such a big deal.”
Five more horses died between Saturday and Monday. Four of them were euthanized, according to the BLM.
“I have a cow herd. When the cattle get to be this old, we sell them so they can be turned into hamburger. That’s not the way with horses; we can only take care of them. If they are old, they naturally succumb to nature,” Landgraf said.
According to McGuire, it is part of the contractual arrangement that if there are deaths on these private holdings, they must be reported immediately.
“I always report to customers because I am accountable every day,” Landfgraf said. “I don’t treat these animals any different from my father’s animals, which are on this land.”
BLM officials say they responded immediately when reports of the horse deaths were made. The ensuing investigation informed their decision to leave the animals at the corral, but adjustments were made in their care.
“There were basically three principle causes: one is that these animals are older; anywhere from 15 to 20 years. Because of that, they didn’t endure the stress of the move quite well. When they arrived here, the environment was very different because they had to learn how to feed from the bunks. Some of the less dominant horses succumbed to the stress,” McGuire said.
Though the bureau insists stress was the main cause of the deaths, they introduced significant changes in the feeding regime at the corral, pointing to this as another notable probable cause.
“We have asked the operator to increase the quantity of feeds from 18-20 pounds a day to 26 to 28 per day. We also asked them to increase the energy density of the feeds. The mixture of grass and alfalfa is now balanced in favor of alfalfa,” McGuire said.
BLM has never had to move such a large number of animals, McGuire said.
“This case is unique because these animals were taken off of a pasture where they’d been living. BLM has never moved such a large number of older horses to a feedlot from a pasture situation. This is kind of a first for the agency,” he said.
The animals were moved to the corral in the course of one week. BLM’s representative says the move included 200 animals per day. “We had to move the horses immediately. It was an unavoidable situation that we had to respond to,” McGuire said.
According to McGuire, the last horse arrived at the corral June 22. The contractor received a monthly report at the end of June. At that time, the report indicated only about three deaths, which did not alarm BLM. The next report came at the end of July, and BLM noticed a spike in the number of deaths. That was on Aug. 5.
“It seems the measures we have taken so far have achieved what we intended: to get the horses stabilized. The deaths have tapered off, and the horses have a very healthy appearance and seem to be doing quite well,” McGuire said.
BLM also advised the contractor to spread the horses out to more lots so that they are not crowded in one as they were initially, according to McGuire.
Joseph Stratton, who works with the Washington office of BLM and is charged with technical matters of these operations, put the matter in context: “Sometimes, no matter what you feed these animals, when they are stressed, their bodies will not accept the feed. They retreat metabolically instead. Sometimes the bacteria in the horse’s stomach cannot process the new feed, which is different from the pasture. They could eat and still be thin.”
According to Stratton, the horses feed three times a day starting at 6:30 a.m., with this first feeding lasting an hour to an hour and a half, since there are 28 pens. At 10 or 11 a.m., they come back for another feed. In the afternoon, about 2 to 3 p.m., they come back for another.
“Before everybody goes home, they go back and pick up what the horses have dropped and throw it right back into the bunk, so there is no waste,” Stratton said.
Source: The Garden City Telegram by Steven Tendo firstname.lastname@example.org
Click Here for BLM's August 15, 2014 Press Release on the Death of the Horses
Scott City, Kan.—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has launched an investigation into the cause of death for 57 wild horses that were recently transferred to a corral in Scott City, Kan. The BLM, which manages 49,200 wild horses and burros on the range and 47,300 in open pastures and corrals, strives to ensure that herd sizes on the range remain in a healthy balance with other public rangeland resources and uses and places a priority on the well-being of the animals in its care.
After removal from the range, the BLM aims to place animals that are not adopted onto open pastures, often in the Midwest. In March 2014, an open-pasture contractor in Kansas informed the BLM that he would not renew his existing five-year contract, requiring the BLM to remove about 1,900 animals (1,500 mares and 400 geldings) by June 1, 2014. Due to concerns about the older age of many of the animals and the stress associated with being moved, the BLM worked to find an appropriate facility as close as possible to the open pasture. The BLM located an in-state facility that could accommodate the animals and began moving 1,493 mares to the Scott City corral. The transfers were completed on June 22.
On Aug. 5, the contractor informed the BLM that a number of the transferred mares died between June 22 and Aug. 5; as of Aug. 15, a total of 57 transferred mares had died. On Aug. 12, a team of BLM personnel and a veterinarian from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service arrived on site. The team is investigating the situation; determining the causes of death; evaluating the facility, the corral feed and feeding practices; and taking actions to support the short- and long-term needs of the horses. After arrival, the team euthanized an additional 13 mares that were determined to have little to no chance for survival due to health issues.
Preliminary findings from the team’s USDA large animal veterinarian indicate that the animals died as a result of their age combined with stress from the recent relocation, the shift from pasture to corral environment and the change from pasture feed to processed hay feed. There is no indication of infectious or contagious diseases being the cause.
“Our team is working closely with the corral operator to make adjustments to the care of the animals,” said USDA veterinarian Dr. Al Kane, who is on the investigation team. “The horses have been fed three times a day since the beginning. In addition to increasing the amount of feed being offered during feedings, we’ve worked with the onsite veterinarian and the operator to increase the energy density of the horses’ feed by increasing the ratio of alfalfa to grass in the hay mix. This helps support the horses’ nutritional needs during the transition from open-pasture to the corral environment,” he added.
Once the investigation is concluded, the team will complete a report that will be made publicly available.
Credentialed media are invited to attend a facility tour on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Interested members of the press should contact Paul McGuire at (405) 826-3036 or email@example.com for additional information and details.
Source: Bureau of Land Management Press Release
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse, a hopeful sign for equines in New Mexico, says Debbie Coburn. She and her husband, Terry Coburn, have run Four Corners Equine Rescue for the last 10 years at their ranch home just outside Aztec. It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and rehabilitating abandoned, abused and neglected horses. The organization also takes in and care for wild and feral horses. The couple currently have 62 horses at their sprawling facility in Flora Vista, south of the Old Aztec Highway.
Last year, the Coburns took in 30 horses -- "17 as wild as March hares," Debbie Coburn said. "It was like the year of the wild horse, we had so many come in or picked up," she said.
She said wild and feral horses can take twice as long as domesticated horses to be handleable and ready for adoption, doubling the expense and effort each of those horses require. Worse, according to Debbie Coburn, is that those horses face higher slaughter rates when they wind up at sale barns or at public auctions.
"What they call loose horses at a sale barn, public auction -- the chances of anyone taking them home is like .000000001 percent," she said. "No, they end up slaughtered. They sell them to kill buyers. The public auction is whoever bids the most."
The greatest obstacle, as Debbie Coburn sees it, is the reality that many horses are sent to slaughter each year, often out of convenience, indifference or cultural views that see the horses as possessions. With added political pressure and greater awareness, she is hopeful that change is afoot.
"The more Americans -- members of the public -- become aware of what's happening (with slaughter practices), the more the resistance to horse slaughter grows, and I think we're closer now than we ever have been to changing the culture of horse ownership," Debbie Coburn said. "I feel like we're making positive change. It's changed."
She points to a new law she championed to include a donation box on state personal tax forms to allow taxpayers to check off a donation to the horse shelter rescue fund. The state's Livestock Board would oversee the distribution of money to help horse shelters like the Coburns'. Debbie Coburn testified in support of the law at last year's legislative session in Santa Fe.
"It was organized chaos, so busy, so many committees I visited," she said. "That was my debut as a citizen lobbyist. But the governor (Susana Martinez) signed the bill. Things like this represent positive, incremental steps in the right direction."
The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, an organization launched by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and activist actor Robert Redford, has jumped in to fight horse slaughter. Debbie Coburn said her organization received a $1,500 donation from the foundation in November.
Another sign of change is in an upcoming meeting Debbie Coburn has secured with Ray Baca, executive director of the New Mexico Livestock Board. Highest on her list of outcomes from the meeting is a greater understanding between the board and state rescues. The goal, she said, would be that board officials call rescues before allowing the horses to be taken to a sale barn and sold at public auction.
"We're supposed to meet with Baca to start forging a new relationship," she said. "We've been trying for a while. The first time I approached him, he said, 'No.' The fact that the (six) rescues (in the state) have bonded together, he's been more inclined to listen. It's the old guard, but the hope for change is there. Bit by bit."
Baca's board is still stinging after an investigative article in the Albuquerque Journal discovered that Baca signed a purchase order to place four abused horses with Southwest Livestock Auction, a feedlot in Los Lunas, in September. The feedlot's owner, Dennis Chavez, pleaded guilty in November to animal cruelty after four severely emaciated and dying horses were documented on his property. As part of a settlement agreement in the case, Debbie Coburn and two other state rescues received $5,000 last month.
"These rescues have saved a lot of horses," said Gary Mora, an area supervisor with the state's Livestock Board. "We have delivered horses (to Four Corners Equine Rescue). (Coburn) has picked up horses. She will attempt to help, but that is not always possible."
Mora, who has been with the board for 17 years, believes the board is doing all it can to place horses, despite a small budget, limited staff and no place of its own to hold horses indefinitely.
"We are faced with a problem with unwanted, abandoned horses. The economy didn't help," Mora said. "We can't just give these horses away. We have to follow the estray process, because they're not the property of the state. We hold onto them for as long as possible, and, most of the time, we're successful to adopt them out to private individuals or to rescues, but down the road we're going to run out of options. We don't have a facility to hold horses. After that, according to statute, we're required to sell them at public auction."
All of New Mexico's horse rescue groups, including Four Corners Equine Rescue, have banded together to form the New Mexico Equine Rescue Alliance, whose mission is to take all horses from the state's Livestock Board.
"This needs to stop," Debbie Coburn said. "We're willing to help. I'm not trying to pull their (agencies like the Livestock Board) wisdom teeth without sedation. We're trying to get along and make this a safer process for the horses. That's the point, but I am encouraged."
Source: The Daily Times by James Fenton