Kentucky's horse breeders are going to recommend to that state's governor that mares which have been infected with an imported equine veneral disease not be bred for as long as one year.
If this recommendation is accepted, it could mean a loss of millions of dollars to that state's horse breeding industry.
The list of thoroughbred stallions which are suspected to be carriers of contagious ejuine metritis continues to grow, with Wajima, syndicated for $7.2 million, the most prominent horse thought to be infected.
Dr. William R. McGee, a Lexington, Ky., veterinarian who has become a special adviser to the governor since the outbreak of the disease, said the proposal will "hurt" the breeders' income. "But the only way to stop this infection is to stop the animal," he said. "We've got to stop the traffic."
At a meeting yesterday at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, members of the Thoroughbred Breeders of Kentucky said they would seek the support of their state's commissioner of agriculture, Thomas Harris, in sharply curtailing the breeding and movement of horses within the state.
Kentucky Gov. Julian Carroll has banned the shipment of thoroughbreds from the state, except for racing and exhibitons, for 30 days and the state department of agriculture has barred inter-farm breeding. That ban expires March 28, but some breeders are expected to wait for possibly a year to make sure the disease has been eradicated before again having their mares bred.
Equine metritis, believed to have been brought to Kentucky by stallions from France, has been found in eight stallions at two stud farms near Lexington. There also have been positive tests in 30 to 35 mares so far, the USDA said.
Stallions are carriers but are not affected by the disease, the department said.
The disease has struck at a particularly bad time since Kentucky's horsemen are in the midst of their breeding season and the annual thorough bred foal crop sired by Kentucky stallions is estimated to be worth $200 million.
The breeders recommended that regional laboratories across the country be approved to run tests if the disease is suspected to have spread to their state. The USDA already has trained 63 persons to help conduct the tests.
But one of the biggest problems in detecting the spread of contagious equine metritis is that, as both the breeders and the USDA said, there is some question about the reliability of present tests. The USDA said this might be because of uncertainly about which strain of the disease it is dealing with.
If necessary, the breeders said they may seek federal aid to implement the program.