Get the Lead Out

  From the July 17, 2017 Issue of Agri-News
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 As producers move livestock among various pastures throughout the summer, they should be keeping an eye out for any signs of buried batteries or other sources of lead.

“Windy and wet weather can move soil exposing discarded lead acid batteries that have been buried for years,” says Andrea Hanson, beef extension specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). “Cattle, especially younger animals, find the stable metal (lead) palatable and will actively lick and consume it.”

Cattle that have ingested lead will have elevated levels in their blood, with the amount depending on how much they’ve ingested.

“They may not show any physical symptoms of lead poisoning; however, ingestion of lead can lead to sudden death or permanent brain damage,” says Hanson. “If you have cattle that appear blind and wander aimlessly, you should contact your local veterinarian. As well, any remains of animals that have died from lead exposure must be disposed of in a particular way.”

Most cases of lead exposure and poisoning in cattle, reported to the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian, occur in cattle grazing on pasture. Dr. Keith Lehman, chief provincial veterinarian, says that lead exposure or poisoning, along with problems arising from other toxins, must be reported to his office.

“Used lead acid batteries should always be sent away for recycling,” says Hanson. “There are collection stations located across the province where worn out batteries can be safely disposed. The Recycling Council of Alberta has a website to find the nearest place to dispose of lead acid batteries.”

For more information, see the AF publication Lead Toxicity in Cattle.

Alberta Ag-Info Centre
310-FARM (3276)

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Ken Blackley.
This information published to the web on June 29, 2017.