No Increase in PMU Mares At Slaughter Plants

Thousands of horses from shut-down PMU (pregnant mare urine) farms in Canada and North Dakota are finding new homes in the United States, but few are winding up at slaughter houses at this time, according to slaughter plant managers.

Dick Koehler, general manager of the Beltex plant in Fort Worth, Texas, said that his firm is never in the market for PMU horses because many of them are draft types that do not fit the plant's needs. He said that no PMU horses had wound up at Beltex since the Canada and North Dakota cutbacks. Beltex slaughters about 600 head of horses per week and has been operating on a normal schedule.

A contact at Dallas Crown, located in nearby Kaufman, Texas, said that "a few PMU horses" arrived at the plant some time back, but that they were the only ones. Those horses, the person said, had been purchased in Canada by a buyer. Dallas Crown slaughters about 250 head of horses per week and has been operating at normal levels.

The chief slaughter plant in Canada is Bouvry Exports Calgary Ltd. Claude Bouvry, president, said that his plant is not interested in the thousands of PMU mares which went on the market because they are late in their pregnancies and the plant does not slaughter mares in that condition. He said that virtually no PMU horses had been sold to Bouvry of late. Bouvry slaughters between 240 and 260 horses daily and is operating on a normal schedule.

The third U.S. slaughter plant is Cavel International, located in DeKalb, Ill. It is being rebuilt in the wake of a fire and should reopen this spring. The plant will have slaughter capacity of 100 horses per day.

Prices paid for horses by the slaughter plants fluctuate almost daily, depending on the supply of horses and the demand in the European marketplace. Generally, prices for slaughter horses are lowest in October when many owners sell their animals rather than face winter feed costs. Prices traditionally are highest in January and February when fewer horses are offered for sale to the slaughter plants.

The increased number of PMU horses available is due to a reduction in the number of prescriptions being written for hormone replacement therapy in women, and because of last summer's federal approval of a lower-dose hormone replacement medication. As the result, demand for pregnant mare urine dropped and Canadian-based Wyeth Laboratories, a major processor of pregnant mare urine, in October 2003 announced a mammoth cutback in the number of mares in the program.

When the PMU program was at its peak, there were 437 farms with 47,000 mares "on line" and producing pregnant mare urine. The number of mares has been cut to 11,700.

Wyeth instituted a program to pay for transportation and health test costs on displaced PMU horses sold in the United States. As a result, the horses have been sold and trucked to many areas. Almost none of these horses have wound up at a slaughter plant, according to information from plant managers.

About the Author

Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow is a free-lance writer based near Riverton, Wyo. He specializes in articles on equine research, and operates a ranch where he raises horses and livestock. He has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse, published by Eclipse Press and available at or by calling 800/582-5604.

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