Warning: Discarded batteries can have fatal consequences for livestock

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock has urged farmers to be aware of the fatal consequences of livestock coming into contact with old and disused batteries.

“Every farmer deals with the task of replacing batteries in their motorised vehicles on the farm but many are still unaware of how dangerous batteries are if animals come into contact with them.”

Every year in Ireland many animals die from fatal lead toxicity usually in the months from April to November as this coincides with cattle out grazing the land.

Sherlock is urging farmers to treat batteries with care and remove them off the farm as quickly as possible to reduce the risk to animals.

“There are facilities available in every county for such batteries to be recycled.

Sherlock said farmers lose many animals to diseases yearly and the last thing any farmer needs is the loss of valuable animals unnecessarily due to the coming into contact with old batteries.”

Also Read: Cows die from lead poisoning on Cork dairy farm

Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning follows ingestion of lead-containing materials such as material from discarded car batteries; lead-based paints are now rare.

Lead poisoning is characterised by acute brain disease. Irrespective of the rate of uptake of lead, the clinical signs of intoxication are sudden in onset and characterised by behavioural changes.

Affected cattle become isolated and depressed but are over- reactive to touch and sound. They are blind but show no clinical lesions in the eyes and may press the head into corners and against walls.

As the disease progresses, cattle become frenzied, bellow, stagger and crash into obstacles. There maybe signs of abdominal pain including kicking at the abdomen and frequent teeth grinding. Death may occur suddenly or within days.

Cattle with severe neurological signs of several days’ duration may have extensive brain pathology that is unlikely to respond to treatment.

Slow intravenous injections of a 5% solution of sodium calcium edentate and oral solutions of magnesium sulphate are the treatments of choice but are rarely successful once severe neurological signs are present.