Fifteen horses, half the herd at the farm Geirland near Kirkjubaejarklaustur in south Iceland, were killed after eating toxic hay from hay rolls. The first horses got ill on Thursday last week and started dying one after the other.
According to province veterinarian Gunnar Thorkelsson, it is probably a case of carcass poisoning. If the carcass of an animal like a dead bird gets rolled up with the hay in summer and no oxygen gets through the plastic wrapping, a strong poison is created, 24 Stundir reports.
The poison first makes the horses lame and then they die. After symptoms have appeared, nothing can be done to prevent death, Thorkelsson said, but it is possible to give precautionary medicine to the surviving horses, which has been done.
It is, however, impossible to know whether the surviving horses were given the medicine in time because the symptoms of poisoning are sometimes not detected until two weeks after the horses consume the toxic hay.
Horse owner Gísli Kjartansson told news website eidfaxi.is (dedicated to the Icelandic horse) that this is an enormous loss, both emotionally and financially. “We believed that we had good insurance but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”