NCDA&CS identifies alfalfa hay contaminated with blister beetles


RALEIGH – State officials have determined that a single load of alfalfa hay, originating in Kansas and delivered to Murphy Farm Hay and Feed in Louisburg on Aug. 11, was the source of blister beetle contamination. The bales from this load of hay were bound with a reddish-orange twine. Murphy Farm Hay and Feed sold much of this hay at retail, as well as further distributed hay from this single load to Jones Farm Hay and Feed in Middlesex. No other N.C. locations received hay from this Kansas farm.

Toxicology testing confirmed the presence of cantharidin, a poisonous substance found in blister beetles, and is linked to the deaths of six horses.

Customers who purchased alfalfa hay, bound with a reddish-orange twine, bought on or after Aug. 11 from either location, are encouraged to stop using it immediately and return it to the location where purchased.

“Our feed inspectors have identified much of the hay sold from these locations thanks to the cooperation of both feed stores,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We are continuing to reach out to all customers that may have purchased hay from either store as we attempt to account for the distribution of the entire load.”

The load of hay, containing about 500 bales, was found to be contaminated with the striped blister beetle. A visual inspection of the contaminated hay has shown dead blister beetles.

State officials issued a stop-sale order Sept. 14 on alfalfa hay in inventory at Murphy Farm Ham and Feed and Jones Farm Hay and Feed.

Blister beetle is not common in North Carolina. Cattle, goats, sheep and horses may be affected by cantharidin, with horses being more severely affected by the toxin than ruminants. Feed affected by the toxin may or may not have visible beetles in it. Horse owners should monitor their animals and contact their veterinarian if any of these signs are observed: inflammation, colic, straining, elevated temperature, depression, blood in the urine, increased heart rate and respiration, dehydration, sweating, diarrhea and death.

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