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Lead poisoning risk on farms - clean up your old batteries


Our vets have been diagnosing lead poisoning as a cause of cattle deaths on an occasional, but regular basis.

Lead sources

The source of the lead has invariable been old batteries, found in farm tips or around sheds.

Cattle are at most risk of lead poisoning due to their inquisitive nature and tendency to "taste test" items such as old batteries, flaking lead paint, sump oil, ashes, diesel and just about any other potential lead source they come across.


Often the first sign of lead poisoning is finding dead stock.

Where affected animals are observed alive, they show signs of depression and are unresponsive to their surroundings.

They are often blind and may walk aimlessly, eventually stumbling into fences or other obstacles, before becoming comatose and dying. Finding dead cattle against a fence line would have lead poisoning as a prime suspect.

Treatment and response

Treatment attempts are invariably unrewarding.

Stock exposed to abnormal lead intake must not be slaughtered for human consumption until animal health authorities are confident that their tissues meet food standards.

Unacceptable lead levels can persist for many months in the liver and kidney of stock that have recovered from lead poisoning.

Please have a look around your sheds or in paddocks where stock are grazing, and remove any batteries. 

While checking for lead poisoning hazards, consider reviewing the security of other farm areas that offer potential stock poisoning risks – including chemical stores, chemical handling areas, spray gear and stores of treated seed grain.

Ensuring that stock remain isolated from these hazards will reduce the risk of loss from accidental poisonings as well as keeping them contaminant free.

For further information, contact your local District Vet...