Reminder to get the lead out
15 October 2018
Livestock lead poisoning has become a common occurrence in the Central West Local Land Services region, and in many cases, an old lead battery has been the source.
Battery cases left in the weather become brittle over time, and cattle, especially young, inquisitive cattle, can easily disturb an old battery and access the lead within.
Central West Local Land Services District Veterinarian Nik Cronin said cattle develop a taste for salts in the lead and go back repeatedly to lick and chew at the source.
“With the ongoing dry conditions, there may be an increase in stock trying to eat unusual items, like batteries, especially if they are also suffering from trace element deficiencies.” Nik said.
Post exposure, lead poisoning in livestock can present in several ways.
Animals that consume large amounts of lead may be found dead in the paddock. When smaller amounts are consumed, they may show neurological signs such as a lack of appetite and poor coordination, depression, aimless wandering or circling, and blindness or 'star gazing'.
Lead poisoning can be diagnosed by the Local Land Services District Veterinarian. Once diagnosed, all animals in the herd that may have been exposed should be assessed.
“Livestock showing no obvious signs of poisoning can still have unacceptable levels of lead in their system,” Nik said.
As even small amounts of lead can impact livestock production and profitability, landholders are encouraged to prevent risk by disposing of batteries at an off farm, approved recycling facility.
“Treatment of animals suffering from lead poisoning is rarely successful and stock that are found to have lead in their system need to have slaughter restrictions in place to avoid food chain contamination.”
Other sources of lead commonly found on farms include lead-based paint on buildings or other structures, ash from fires left after burning lead-based products, automotive grease, oil filters, sump oil and old linoleum.
Rubbish sites around the farm should be cleaned up or fenced off to restrict livestock access, with similar exclusions around farm and machinery sheds, and even old houses.
It is also important to remember that lead products pose a risk to people, especially young children, whose growth and development can be affected by exposure to lead.
For further information about lead poisoning or other livestock health issues, please contact your local District Veterinarian on 1300 795 299.
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