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Farm & Ranch

Lead Toxicity in Cattle

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By Barry Whitworth, DVM

Lead is one of the most common causes of poisoning in cattle. Most clinical signs of lead poisoning are usually associated with the nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract.
The most common sources of lead are improper disposal of car and farm machinery batteries and used motor oil. Other sources include old structures with lead paint, linoleum, lead pipes, and grease from machinery. Since calves are more curious and prone to nibble or lick objects, poisoning is seen more frequently in calves than older cattle.

Most animals have a background level of lead. Toxicity occurs when the background level plus the amount ingested reaches a toxic level. Doses of 50 to 400 mg/kg may kill a calf. Higher doses (600 to 800 mg/kg) are required to kill adult cattle. Cattle that consume 7 mg/kg a day will eventually die from lead toxicity.

Clinical signs of lead toxicity appear acutely. Many times, producers just find dead animals. Most clinical signs observed are associated with the neurological system. One common sign is blindness. Producers may find a calf walking aimlessly or walking into objects.
Other signs are circling, head pressing, ataxia, muscle tremors, and convulsions. Occasionally, gastrointestinal system signs such as colic, anorexia, diarrhea, grinding of teeth, and frothing of the mouth precede the nervous signs.

Clinical signs of lead poisoning are similar to other nervous and gastrointestinal diseases. Some diseases that can be confused with lead poisoning are polioencephalomalacia, nervous coccidiosis, tetanus, rabies, and listeriosis.

To read more, pick up a copy of the November issue of NTFR magazine. To subscribe by mail, call 940-872-5922.

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Farm & Ranch

Grass Tetany (Hypomagnesemia)

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By Barry Whitworth, DVM

With spring approaching, producers should be aware of a disease associated with rapidly growing forages. Hypomagnesemia is commonly referred to as grass tetany. The disease is a serious and often fatal metabolic disease that occurs in cattle and less commonly in sheep and goats. The disease is characterized by low blood and cerebral spinal fluid levels of magnesium.
Low level of magnesium in animals is associated with tetanic convulsions. The disease is often associated with grazing lush green pastures during cold rainy weather in early spring. Other names for hypomagnesemia are grass staggers, hypomagnesmic tetany, lactation tetany, or wheat pasture poisoning.

Magnesium is an important mineral because it activates many enzymes in chemical reactions in the body. Without this mineral, cells are unable to produce energy, transport genetic information, transport materials across cell membranes, and nerves cease to respond in a normal manner. Magnesium also plays a role in electrolyte balances in the body.

Maintaining magnesium levels requires adequate daily intake to meet the needs of the animal. Factors that increase magnesium requirements are fetal growth during pregnancy, milk production, soft tissue growth, and bone growth. Failure to absorb magnesium may lower blood levels as well.

To read more, pick up a copy of the February 2024 issue of NTFR magazine. To subscribe by mail, call 940-872-5922.

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Farm & Ranch

Ag Elsewhere: Montana

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By Lindsey Monk

Hope someone is whispering sweet nothings in your ear this Valentine’s Day!

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Farm & Ranch

Ag Elsewhere: Wyoming

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By Tressa Lawrence

May you find yourselves bedded down and cozy this February!

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