Skip to content

Confinement feeding – consider this risk!

Nik Cronin, District Veterinarian, Forbes

Are you currently confining your animals to drought feed? Locking up livestock to feed during periods of drought is a recommended tool to prevent degradation of land and pastures from overgrazing and to prevent wastage of vital energy stores that stock may use when foraging in essentially bare paddocks.

But, it is absolutely crucial that the area you confine stock to is free of potential hazards. Confined stock bore easily and will tamper with anything in their immediate environment.

Consider this recent case. Cows and calves being confine fed in a newly set up pen. An old truck has been parked in the same site within this space for years. However the young calves are able to access an old battery underneath the tray of the truck. The rear of the battery has perished and the calves pick and chew at it in their boredom. Result – sudden death of a number of calves, and a significant number of others with lead in their system which now need to be managed to prevent being a risk to the food chain.

And another case. A farm clean-up of old building materials results in old timber painted with lead based paint being burnt. Cattle locked up in the same area disturb the fire ashes. Result – death of one heifer and others with detectable levels of lead in their systems.

Lead poisoning is a not an uncommon occurrence in livestock in our region. In most cases, the humble lead battery is the culprit, but as the second case demonstrates, other hazards are commonly present on farm.

Young animals are always at a greater risk because of their inquisitive nature and drought also heightens the risk with reduced pasture cover exposing previously hidden hazards.

Prevention is by far the best option.

To prevent incidences of lead poisoning on your farm, have a routine program for disposal of lead batteries. Clean up rubbish sites, or fence them off to restrict livestock access with similar exclusions around farm and machinery sheds, and even old houses.