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No Increase in PMU Mares at Slaughter Plants

by: Les Sellnow

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 at this time, few are winding up at slaughter houses, according to slaughter plant managers.

Dick Koehler, general manager of the Beltex plant in Fort Worth, Texas, said that his firm is not in the market for PMU horses at any time 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 cutbacks in Canada and North Dakota. 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 slaughter plant in the United States 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 supply of horses and demand in the European marketplace. Generally speaking, 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 in North America 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 mare urine dropped and Canadian-based Wyeth Laboratories, a major processor of pregnant mare urine, instituted a mammoth cutback in the number of pregnant mares being used in the program announced in October 2003.

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 because less urine is required to produce the lower dosage estrogen replacement therapy.

Wyeth Laboratories 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.