Nails and metal in your cattle? Here’s how to prevent

Dear Daktari

Thank you for your very informative weekly articles on livestock health. I’m a dairy farmer here in Kabarnet, Baringo County. I have lost a very good Friesian cross to hardware disease as diagnosed by my veterinarian. Later, I realized that the free-range farming I do and some construction work going on on my farm could be the cause of this disease. Why is this disease common and how can it be prevented?

Kimaiyo Benard Kabarnet, County Baringo

Thank you very much Benard for the good question. You are correct in your observation that stock disease is becoming more common, this has been attributed to increased mechanization of farming (research has reported that 55-75% of cattle slaughtered in the eastern US Unis were found with material disease) and also due to poor breeding. The Benard case is a good example of this, cattle easily swallow nails and wires when they are present in the pasture. He kept the cattle in an area where construction was in progress, exposing the animal to metal objects. Although many farmers would like to attribute it to the malice of jealous neighbors, I will however not comment on this.

What is hardware disease?

Hardware disease, also known as traumatic reticuloperitonitis, is caused by sharp objects that are ingested by feeding cattle. These sharp objects, once lodged in the stomach (reticulum), can pierce the wall of the diaphragm to the heart and lead to death. Ingestion and deposition of foreign bodies in the reticulum are common in cattle due to indiscriminate feeding habits. The disease is very painful for the animal and causes wasting. The anatomical structure of the reticulum makes it a trap for heavy objects ingested by the animal.

Physical disease may be present and yet produce no damage to digestive and cardiac structures; but their presence is quite a risk factor. However, aggravating factors like pregnancy that displace the rumen and reticulum forward can turn an otherwise harmless metallic object into a deadly one. Other things that cause damage to a swallowed object include twitching, forceful abdominal movements like when a cow is going up or down a steep hill. Equipment disease is common in older cattle than in younger ones.

What are the clinical signs?

Lack of appetite, depression, slow movements or reluctance to move, pain on defecation, auscultation, abnormal heart sounds will be heard. Culling is always recommended, because by the time it is diagnosed, the damage has already progressed. For animals of high value or used in breeding, surgical treatment (rumenotomy) can be attempted despite a poor prognosis which depends on the extent of the disease, the duration of its presence and the age of the animal. animal.

How to prevent hardware disease?

Good animal husbandry practices such as careful storage of metal objects, replacement of baling wires with baling wires, keeping livestock away from construction sites and the use of magnets attached to Feed cutting are ways to prevent material disease.

The Magnet as a preventive measure?

The use of a bolus magnet inserted into the reticulum is an effective prevention technique for material disease. The magnet is administered by a veterinarian much like a large bolus or pill, with a gastric tube or a ball gun.

This magnet has grooves that will pick up any metal objects in the reticulum and subsequently retain them, greatly reducing the chances of them causing penetration. Oral administration of the magnet should be done after the age of one year to 18 months.

After oral administration, the magnet will first fall into the rumen and then move to the desired location in the reticulum following ruminal and reticular contractions. It is recommended to add another magnet after four years for effective prevention of material disease.

(Dr Othieno is a veterinarian and currently a communications officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Kenya. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the FAO but his own)

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