Farm Ireland

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Cows die from lead poisoning on farm supplying Dairygold

Louise Hogan and Ralph Riegel

Published 17/02/2016 | 06:17

Ideally cows will be put out to grass in spring.
Ideally cows will be put out to grass in spring.

Milk supplies to Dairygold Co-operative Society were suspended from a dairy herd that has been stricken by suspected lead poisoning.

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At least seven cows on the north Cork farm are believed to have died after ingesting lead in recent days.

Food safety watchdogs are satisfied that there is no risk to consumers.

The milk from the farm, which supplies to Ireland’s largest farmer-owned dairy business, Dairygold, will be disposed of as a precautionary measure.

A spokesman from the Department of Agriculture confirmed it was investigating the deaths of the cows on the farm.

“The department, in consultation with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), is satisfied that there is no risk to consumers arising from this case,” the spokesman said.

“The FSAI has performed a risk assessment on product from the farm which entered the food chain prior to the restriction and has determined that there is no risk to the consumer.”

Dairygold Co-operative Society confirmed the department was examining a “non-contagious animal health issue” on the farm of one of its suppliers.

“As a precautionary measure, the department has advised Dairygold to suspend milk collections from the farm concerned pending the outcome of the department’s investigation,” a spokesman for the Mitchelstown-headquartered business said.

A probe is under way into how the cows may have come into contact with the lead.

“Investigations under way are focused on degrading lead weights on collars worn by the animals. There is no evidence of any other source of contamination,” a department spokesman said.

“A small number of farms known to have used the same weights have been identified and the weights removed. The department has found no evidence of similar problems on these farms.”


The more common sources of lead poisoning reported are discarded lead batteries and lead-based paints.

There were 28 cases of lead poisoning fatalities recorded in cattle on the island of Ireland during 2014, according to the all-island Animal Disease Surveillance Report. However, the signs of it can include convulsions, blindness, head-pressing or teeth grinding, while in many cases the first sign of it is that animals are found dead.

Teddy Cashman, chair of the National Dairy Council, said Irish farmers produced top quality milk with strict control protocols in place.

“I know from both being a dairy producer and from dealing with co-ops around the country that we have an extremely rigorous testing regime in Ireland,” he said, adding that the Department of Agriculture oversees all testing. “Consumers can be extremely happy with the quality of the milk and powders in Ireland,” he said.

Dairygold Co-operative Society processes almost 20pc of the Irish milk pool, purchasing milk from around 3,000 suppliers. It has invested in top quality processing facilities to produce key ingredients for products such as infant milk formula.

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