Ahead of turn out livestock farmers are being urged to be on their guard this spring to protect livestock from the deadly consequences of lead poisoning. The period immediately following turn out is when stock are most at risk of poisoning.

SAC data has shown that 92.5% of lead poisoning cases were diagnosed during the grazing season. Of these almost three quarters occurred in the months of May and June. Young inquisitive cattle are most at risk. If there has been an old battery leftover from an electric fence, then a young inquisitive calf is sure to find it.

Signs of lead poisoning include;

  • Sudden death
  • Blindness
  • Neurological signs such as fitting
  • Abdominal distention
  • Slow or stunted growth

If you identify or suspect lead poisoning, remove the source and restrict access from stock to that area. Be aware of what lead sources are on farm and how they are stored and how animals have access to these. Lead batteries, old paint, bonfire ash (sites of burnt-out vehicles) and fly-tipping are all primary sources of lead poisoning.

To reduce the risk;

  • Check fields (whether you have grazed cattle there or not) for lead batteries from fly-tipping or overlooked after using an electric fence before stock are turned out.
  • Be vigilant to fly-tipping during the summer months, particularly around areas where public have access.
  • If using batteries for electric fences ensure that the battery and fencer are covered and or positioned out of reach of cattle.
  • Remove the ash and a layer of soil from sites of burnt-out vehicles and bonfires.

The best defence against the occurrence or reoccurrence of lead poisoning is prevention. Check fields now for potential sources and remove them. 

Related Resources

How To Avoid Lead Poisoning In Your Herd | Information helping farmers in Scotland | Farm Advisory Service (fas.scot)

Health Considerations of Youngstock at Summer Grazing | Helping farmers in Scotland | Farm Advisory Service (fas.scot)