Analysis of SAC data for the past 5 years shows that 92.5% of lead poisoning cases were diagnosed during the grazing season. Of these almost three quarters occurred in May and June. The time of greatest risk is the period immediately following turn out. The majority involved cattle aged 2 years or less with animals under a year accounting for half. Spring would be a good time to inspect fields before cattle, especially young stock, are turned out. Particularly check for lead batteries from fly tipping or overlooked following use of an electric fence. Sites of burnt out vehicles and bonfires (where batteries have been added) are also dangerous. To make these safe remove the ash plus a layer of soil. Lead paint and geochemical lead (present naturally in the soil) are less common causes of toxicity.
Lead is ingested because young cattle are inquisitive and the electrolytes in batteries can be palatable. Acute toxicity can occur within 24 hours and signs range from sudden death to blindness, ataxia and convulsions. Animals that survive for a few days are dull, blind, anorexic, have abdominal distention and may become recumbent.
Heather Stevenson, email@example.com
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