Shipping of In-Foal PMU Mares on Hold

The shipment of PMU (pregnant mare urine) mares from farms in the United States and Canada was put on hold in February until after the foaling season, unless the shipping distance is very short.

The reason, says Nat Messer IV, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, associate professor at the University of Missouri, and a member of an advisory board created by Wyeth Industries in Brandon, Manitoba, is because the mares are in late-term pregnancy and there is concern that long-distance travel will put both mare and foal at risk.

The mares are in the marketplace because Wyeth Laboratories has developed a new low-dose estrogen product that uses pregnant mare urine as the basic component. The lower-dose hormone replacement product requires far less pregnant mare urine than did its predecessor product.

When the PMU program was at its peak, there were 437 farms with 47,000 mares "on line" and producing pregnant mare urine. That number, by the end of next year, will have been reduced to 11,700 mares.

To help PMU ranchers adjust to the change, Wyeth Laboratories established a $3.7 million trust fund that will pay ranchers for urine not produced through the completion of their contracts. The company also agreed to help pay transportation costs for mares shipped long distances and to cover the costs for such things as health certificates and Coggins tests. The trust fund is administered by a trustee who is not a company employee.

In addition, Wyeth Laboratories established a seven-person advisory committee, of which Messer is a member. The committee, he said, meets on a regular basis via conference call. Some committee members are veterinarians and some are not, but all are connected with agriculture in some way in either the United States or Canada. The goal of the committee, Messer said, is to help find placements for the mares at places other than slaughter plants.

To date, he said there has been success, with between 7,000 and 8,000 mares in new locations. A number of them have been purchased as embryo transfer recipients by veterinarians and facilities involved with embryo transfer, he said.

During its most recent meeting, the advisory committee decided that long-distance transportation of pregnant mares should be discontinued for the time being. Most mares will foal between April and June, and long-distance travel will put them and the unborn foals at risk.

Normally, the PMU foals are weaned in September and October. There will be another "wave" of PMU mares in the marketplace in late 2004 and into 2005, Messer said, and the effort will continue to find homes for them. The slaughter facilities, Messer said, are not interested in late-term pregnant mares.

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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