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Tuesday 23 October 2018

Warning over garden clippings being dumped in grazing pasture after sheep poisoning

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.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Flockowners and gardeners need to be aware of the danger of sheep gaining access to gardens or of garden clippings being dumped in grazing pasture.

That’s according to a latest report from Regional Veterinary Laboratories operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM).

The laboratories provide data on the patterns and frequency of occurrence of non-regulated diseases in farmed animal populations in Ireland.

In the first quarter of 2018 poisoning was a commonly recorded (20 cases) as a cause of death among sheep with cases of Rhododendron/Pieris spp. poisoning recorded in 9 cases.

Sheep farmers and members of the public have been warned of the danger of sheep gaining access to gardens or of garden clippings being dumped in grazing pasture.

Most poisoning occurs in the winter months because the leaves are generally evergreen and are attractive to animals when other forages are scarce.

Animals eating approximately 0.2pc of their body weight of leaves are likely to develop signs of poisoning.

Animals poisoned by rhododendrons initially have clinical signs of digestive disturbances characterized by anorexia, excessive salivation, vomiting, colic, and frequent defecation.

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Regional Veterinary Laboratories also reported that copper poisoning was also identified with relative frequency among poisoning cases.

Chronic copper poisoning occurs after the sheep's liver capacity for copper storage has been exceeded.  This results in sudden release of copper into the circulation, causing liver damage, destruction of red blood cells and jaundice.

There is variation in breed susceptibility to copper toxicity related to ability to absorb dietary copper.

Texel, Suffolk and several continental short-wool breeds of sheep are relatively susceptible, when compared with, for example, Cheviots and Scottish Blackfaces. 

Growing lambs are more susceptible than adult ewes.

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