Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Lead weights on cow collars suspected in 'poison' deaths

Photo: O'Gorman Photography
Photo: O'Gorman Photography

Louise Hogan and Ralph Riegel

An animal health-monitoring company had already begun replacing lead weights in heat-detection collars used on cows prior to being contacted about suspected poisoning cases on a dairy farm.

Cork-based Alanya Animal Health Monitoring has said that some of its older 'legacy' collars, used on farms since 2013 to help detect when a cow is in heat, had lead weights coated in rubber or plastic material to keep them in place.

The firm said it was co-operating fully with the investigation being undertaken by the Department of Agriculture after at least seven cows died on a north Cork farm of suspected lead poisoning.

"We were contacted by the Department of Agriculture to advise that it was investigating a possible case of lead poisoning on a farm in Cork and we were an obvious possibility, but not the definitive source, as some of our legacy or older collars contained lead weights inside a composite coating made of a rubber or plastic material," a spokesman for Alanya Animal Health Monitoring said.

"We immediately co-operated fully with the departments when we understood the position. We have a positive relationship with the Department of Agriculture and all of the regional vets."

The department said the investigations were centering on degrading lead weights on the collars worn by the cows and there was no evidence of any other source of contamination.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has confirmed it is satisfied that there is no risk to consumers after milk from the farm, which supplies Ireland's largest farmer-owned dairy business, Dairygold Co-operative Society, was prohibited from entering the food chain.

A spokesman for Alanya said it had not been instructed to recall any of the collars.

Also Read

He continued: "However, on a precautionary basis, and pending the investigations ongoing, we are completing a replacement programme of all lead weights with steel weights.

"The lead weights were no longer in use in newer versions of the product and going forward no lead weights will be used in the product.

"The majority of weights had been replaced already and we had begun this programme before this case of lead poisoning."

The company stressed that there were a small number of lead weights on farms, all of which would be replaced by the middle of next week.

The replacement programme began in January and Alanya had begun manufacturing the new collars with steel weights the previous January.

"The case of lead poisoning is specific to one herd and none of our other farm customers has tested positive for lead poisoning," the firm stated.

"Our product, Herdinsights, is designed to enhance the quality and performance of dairy cows and is a key tool for farmers to effectively manage their herds.

"The feedback from all our customers has been positive and supportive," he said.

Irish Independent