Sources of Glyphosate
Most commercial equine hard feeds
that include the following ingredients in some form - wheat, barley,
rapeseed, soybeans, beet pulp, molasses, corn syrup and alfalfa, are
contaminated with glyphosate residues. Some of these ingredients are
difficult to spot because their waste products (eg wheat husks) are
frequently included as fillers to bulk out the feed with cheap
ingredients so owners think they are filling their horses with plenty of
healthy food and getting value for money. Incorporating cheap
ingredients also helps the chemical analysis work out right at the least
Thanks to the practice of spraying
glyphosate onto crops at harvest to dessicate the crop to minimise
wastage, the levels of glyphosate are frequently highest in the fillers
such as wheat husks, nutritionally improved straw (NIS) etc. Glyphosate
levels in food are not routinely monitored. Virtually all modern
combine harvesters are now being manufactured with this spraying ability
Check with your hay and haylage supplier too whether they use RoundUp or another glyphosate-based weedkiller. Meadow hay cut from set-aside land should be the healthiest for your horse for different reasons other than just the glyphosate issue.
Bear in mind that if your horse/pony eats its bedding, then this could be adding to the glyphosate burden in the digestive tract too. If your horse doesn't eat the bedding then there's nothing to worry about.
If your yard and/or field where you keep your horse is surrounded by arable crops, especially those listed above (but others too) then ask the farmer to at least warn you when he is going to be spraying so you can get your horse as far away as possible. Given that farmers are told by their agrochemical advisors that RoundUp is completely safe it won't have crossed their minds that it isn't and that they need to warn anybody. Tact is advised!!!
Clinical effects of Glyphosate in Horses
The use of Glyphosate on crops not only damages the health of plants and soil inhabitants, but results in feed crops that are nutritionally deficient as well as toxic. Crops not treated with glyphosate but grown in contaminated fields can still suffer the chelation effects that interfere with mineral metabolism and reduce nutritional values.
The resulting malnutrition sets the stage for all sorts of problems including immune suppression, inflammatory conditions, gastro-intestinal problems, ulcers, diarrhoea, poor production and impaired reproduction. All animals are affected but not to the same extent. The least fit or most stressed are the first to show clinical signs with varying degrees of severity.
As well as the more commonly recognised symptoms of Equine Metabolic Syndrome, glyphosate toxicity can adversely affect reproduction including sperm counts, foetal development, gastro-intestinal disorders, reduced immunity, neurological symptoms, kidney disease, increased allergies, and cancers.
Some of these effects can be directly
attributable to glyphosate whilst others are an indirect effect of the
dysbiosis it causes in the digestive tract. This latter dysbiosis can
lead to digestive disorders such as ulcers, colics, malabsorptions
leading to diarrhoea and general abdominal discomfort. Clinically, as
well as the obvious signs of these disorders, gut discomfort can
manifest as a non-specific gait alteration of the right hind leg which
tries to avoid contact with the abdomen and poor performance. Typically
a lameness investigation frequently reveals nothing of note or minor
changes that wouldn't normally be associated with being lame or unlevel
or responsible for a poor performance.
The importance of the Glyphosate Factor in these non-specific clinical cases can only be assessed when glyphosate is removed from the diet (feed and/or bedding if straw is being eaten) and the environment if there is frequent spraying in the area.
Roger has supported Simple System Ltd for a number of years and has asked them about their policy towards sourcing ingredients for their feeds in respect to agrochemicals and RoundUp especially. The reply was very positive and can be found in the left margin as a pdf file. Roger recommends all horses are given feed that is free of agrochemical RoundUp contamination such as Simple System Horse Feeds.