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Farm horses die after eating animal feed

It was reported that four horses in Darling seem to have suffered phosphine poisoning after being fed grain siftings or sweepings on Monday 15 April.

West Coast and Swartland SPCA Inspector Stephanie Fortuin, was called out to a small farmer’s holding in Darling, where four of nine very ill horses were seemingly poisoned.

The vet, also present, had to euthanise two of the horses, and one recovered after symptomatic treatment.

The fourth horse died before there could be any intervention.

Inspector Fortuin was adamant that the cause of this very distressing situation should be investigated.

She loaded the fourth horse into her bakkie and transported it to the State Vet in Elsenburg, Stellenbosch, for an autopsy.

The report declared the cause of death as phosphine poisoning. The horses died after being fed grain siftings or sweepings.

Aluminium phosphide is used as a fumigant in grain silos for the control of insects such as grain weevils.

Small remnants of aluminium phosphide are sifted out of the main body of grain and become concentrated in the siftings and may reach toxic levels.

In animals phosphine primarily affects the central nervous system, which can cause hypersensitivity and convulsions.

Phosphine also affects the gastrointestinal tract causing vomiting, colic and tympany.

The report on phosphine poisoning by the state vet mentioned that siftings of fumigated grain may still be toxic, for 14 days or even longer, after being released from the silo and aerated.

“The danger of using grain siftings from fumigated cereals should be clearly stated on the instructions and package inserts accompanying the various fumigation products.”

The report also stated there should be a warning that grain siftings should be moistened with water and allowed to dry out before it can be safely used as animal feed.

Source: Swartland/West Coast SPCA

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