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Owners of a large alpaca farm east of Findlay have sued the manufacturer and distributor of contaminated alpaca feed that killed or injured more than 300 of the llama-like animals at the farm.
Alpaca Jack's Suri Farm Ltd., and its owners, Jack and Miriam Donaldson, are seeking more than $85 million in damages from Land O'Lakes, Inc., of St. Paul and several of its subsidiaries, which manufactured the feed at a plant in Massillon, Ohio, along with Blanchard Valley Farmers Cooperative, Inc., which sold the feed to Alpaca Jack's.
Fourteen alpacas, including a rare Vicuna alpaca from South America valued at more than $475,000, died after eating Profile Dr. Evans Alpaca Supplement in March, said Gregory Arnold, attorney for the Donaldsons.
The business has suffered “huge losses,” he said, adding that offspring of Vicuna alpaca typically sell for $100,000 each.
The suit, which was filed this week in Hancock County Common Pleas Court, seeks $50 million in punitive damages and $35 million in compensatory damages. It also names dozens of individuals and farms that were boarding alpacas at the farm that became ill or died since they too may have a claim against Land O'Lakes.
Laboratory testing at Ohio State University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Illinois, confirmed that the alpaca feed contained salinomycin, which is “extremely damaging or deadly to alpacas,” the suit says.
Mr. Arnold said though salinomycin can be beneficial to some animals - it kills parasites in poultry, for example - it causes cardiac and musculo-skeletal problems in alpacas.
“The salinomycin was a substance which clearly shouldn't have been in alpaca feed,” Mr. Arnold said. “The feed was represented as coming with a guaranteed analysis of its contents. Obviously, had it been analyzed before, the presence of salinomycin would've been discovered and, obviously, they would not have sold it.”
Mr. Arnold said the Donaldsons had used the feed for several years without problems.
In a March 28 letter to customers, Land O'Lakes acknowledged the presence of salinomycin in the feed lot purchased by the Donaldsons and distributed elsewhere in Ohio.
Company officials could not be reached for comment.