MANZANOLA, Colo. (WXIN) – State and federal officials are warning horse owners not to feed their animals Top of the Rockies brand alfalfa cubes after nearly 100 horses developed neurologic illnesses — 45 of which have died or been euthanized.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the warning Saturday. The agency said it’s working with state agriculture departments in Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas to investigate the horse deaths.

Manzanola Feeds of Manzanola, Colorado, recalled the cubes Friday. The company warns that certain batches may contain bacteria that cause botulism, a fatal paralytic disease. The FDA said more testing is ongoing to confirm the causes of reported illnesses.

The company directly distributed products to stores in 10 states including Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin. The FDA warns the cubes may have been sold in other states as well.

Symptoms include dizziness, trouble with vocalizing or swallowing, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, abdominal distension and constipation. Anyone who fed the cubes to horses or observes symptoms should immediately contact a veterinarian.

Some cubes have been reported to contain what appears to be fur and animal tissues, which may have been ground up during alfalfa harvesting. Botulism-causing bacteria is found in decaying animal carcasses.

Top of the Rockies alfalfa cubes are sold in white and tan plastic 50-pound bags with green labeling. The date codes are on the front of the package. Potentially contaminated lots include those with the date codes 111222, 111322, 111422, 111522, and 111622.

The Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine said its lab has conducted necropsies on 12 horses. Testing of some alfalfa cubes and tissues from those horses is being done at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Anyone with the affected alfalfa cubes should throw them away in a secure container and place them in a covered garbage container so no other animals can get them. The FDA warns people to avoid handling the cubes directly and to wear disposable gloves and a face mask (preferably an N95 respirator) while throwing the cubes away and cleaning any bins or containers where they were kept.

Here’s how to clean the bins:

  • Make a bleach solution by combining 1/4 cup of household bleach to every two cups of water.
  • Completely cover the container with the bleach solution, place a layer of paper towels on top of the bleach, and let sit for at least 15 minutes. 
  • Wipe away any remaining liquid with new paper towels and let the containers air dry.
  • Clean the area with liquid soap and water to remove the bleach and discard any items that may have come into contact with the contaminated food or containers. 
  • Dispose of the face mask and gloves in a secure trash receptacle and wash your hands with soap and running water for at least two minutes.

Anyone who thinks their horse got sick after eating contaminated food is urged to contact their veterinarian before reporting the illness to the FDA through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. If possible, share the brand name and lot numbers of what the horse ate. 

Anyone with any questions can contact Manzanola Feeds either by phone 719-462-5638 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. MST or email manzyfeeds@hotmail.com.