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The six-year-old Westfalian, currently standing at Kathmenn Stud in Vechta, Germany, has been used extensively across Europe. Last year, he covered approximately 500 mares, the majority by artificial insemination, and had been expected to cover even more in 2005.
EVA is a worldwide infectious disease. It can cause abortion in broodmares, as well as illness and sudden death in foals, and there is currently no known proven treatment. EVA is notifiable in the UK and Ireland (it has to be reported to DEFRA), so EU legislation should prevent importation of Florencio’s semen or an inseminated mare to the UK.
“Florencio tested positive in December when we were freezing semen for Holland and Germany,” explains Jeanette Nijhof, whose family stud owns two-thirds of the stallion. “So we tested him on an EVA negative mare of our own. Within 15 days of covering, she was positive, so he is definitely shedding [transmitting the disease].”
The family is attempting to treat the stallion — treatment is virtually unheard of before now.
“We’re trying a treatment from Prof Geise in Germany, who claims to have made five stallions negative again,” says Jeanette. “If all goes to plan, Florencio will be negative in May. If it works, it’ll be a revolution — the treatment is top secret, he won’t even tell us how it works.”
Although Florencio is off limits to British breeders — who are already inquiring about using the stallion — Jeanette estimates that 40-50% of the mare population in Holland is EVA positive. So if the treatment does not work, Florencio “may breed with them without risk,” according to Jeanette.
Vet Karen Coumbe says: “This just highlights the risks of getting EVA in the UK. Anyone importing semen or using a stallion from the continent must be very careful to ensure they do not bring the disease into Britain.”
Dr Richard Newton of the Animal Health Trust confirms that there are no known cures for the virus in Britain and no plans to research treatment in the UK, but adds: “In theory, you might be able to ‘chemically’ castrate horses — the carrier status of a stallion is dependent on testosterone — or take the virus out of the semen, as is possible with HIV in humans.”
This news article was first published in Horse & Hound (3 March, 2005)
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