POISONING of cattle still occurs accidentally on a number of farms each year and lead is the greatest culprit, according to the All Ireland Disease Surveillance report 2011.
The report lists lead poisoning as the most common cause of poisoning fatalities. Copper is much less common cause of poisoning and incidences due to cattle consuming Yew, selenium, Ragworth, chemicals and sprays were rare in the 2011 post mortem examinations carried out by Dept of Agriculture vets.
Lead: Generally lead poisoning occurs during the grazing season when cattle come in contact with discarded items like old lead paint cans, sump oil or disused batteries. These items should be removed and disposed of properly. Where lead poisoning is discovered then the causative agent must be removed straight away.
Copper: Over dosing cattle with copper can be fatal. Clinical signs of poisoning include weakness, depression and jaundice. Herdowners should not engage in excess supplementation unless a deficiency has been confirmed.
Selenium: Again overdosing of cattle that are already in good status for the mineral may have fatal results - while this is rare it is worth remembering that it has a narrow margin of safety and toxicity can be induced easily. Cattle tend to have abnormal posture, diarrhoea and pain resulting from poisoning.
Yew tree and Ragworth: Yew species are toxic all year round and discarded cuttings from Yew trees are generally the cause of cattle fatalities. Similarly, Ragworth contains toxins and can be fatal to cattle but generally is only eaten when it is dried as Hay or Silage. Again the animal pines away over time with no recovery likely.
Chemicals: Dosing agents, pesticides, weed sprays and such like must be stored safely and proper precautions must be taken when they are used. All chemicals must be applied and used according to best practice and as set out by the manufacturer.