Farm Ireland

Monday 22 January 2018

Curiosity killed the cow - what poisoned 141 cattle and sheep on Irish farms?

Lead causes most poisonings on Irish cattle farms

Into the wild: Rhododendrons grow wild at the foot of Benbulben in Sligo.
Into the wild: Rhododendrons grow wild at the foot of Benbulben in Sligo.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Over 140 cattle and sheep died of poisoning on Irish farms in 2015, new statistics from the Department of Agriculture show.

Sheep were top of the casualty list with 78 cases of poisoning recorded, while 63 cattle died from poisoning, the figures show.

Lead was the most common cause of fatal toxicity in cattle, with 33 cases recorded, most of which happened in spring and summer months.

Farmers are advised to walk their fields at the beginning of the new grazing season to check for sources of lead and reminded that common sources of lead include discarded batteries, lead-based paints or crankcase oil.

Cattle are naturally curious animals and one case submitted to the Northern Irish AFBI veterinary laboratories detailed how three cattle gained access to urea pellets - by dislodging a pallet which was being used to barricade off the bag of urea - and they all died as a result of eating the urea pellets.

Copper was the most common cause of fatal poisoning on Irish farms, with 29 cases recorded in 2015, with a peak in August. Cases of copper toxicity are frequently associate with feeding concentrates supplemented with copper and incidences of toxicity tend to occur during winter and spring months when sheep are being fed supplements.

Ragwort caused the death of eight cattle and farmers are reminded that ragwort is not very palatable, but becomes more so when cut or incorporated in hay or silage and cattle may not be able to disregard it. Sheep are more resistant to ragwort than cattle or horses, but they are susceptible to ragwort poisoning.

50pc of sheep poisonings occurred from sheep eating poisonous plants - with 23 cases of fatalities from eating Pieris (Forest Flame/Mountain Fire) and Rhododendron.

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Two cases of fatal poisoning in horses were recorded while another two horses died from yew poisoning.

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