4/29/2014 at 1:30 p.m.
From the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture:
LITTLE ROCK – Livestock owners need to scan their pastures for storm debris that could
prove fatal to their cattle, goats and horses, said Tom Troxel, associate head, animal
science, for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
After the storm has passed, the effects of tornadic winds and floods remain for grazing
“Tornadoes and other storm events with strong winds and flooding can spread debris
over a large area,” said Tom Troxel, associate head-animal science for the University
of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “This sets the stage for grazing animals
to be affected by ‘hardware disease.”
Cattle, sheep, goat and horse owners should take extra time and caution to inspect
hay meadows and pastures for debris especially metal objects.
“Cattle grazing may not notice debris such as wood splinters, metal shards or construction
items such as screws and nails,” Troxel said. “And sometimes, in fields that have
old, rusting fences or bailing wire or where grazing occurs near construction foreign
objects wind up bailed in hay.”
Items such as nails or wire snippets, go directly into the cow’s digestive tract.
Contractions that move food along can cause nails and other items to puncture the
walls of the digestive tract.
Perforations can cause partially digested foods and bacteria to leak in to the abdominal
cavity causing infections and scarring.
Symptoms are may include:
- Decrease in fecal output,
- Mild rise in rectal temperature
- Heart rate may be normal or slightly elevated, and respiration is usually shallow
“Initially, animals will arch their backs, show an anxious expression or be reluctant
to move, using an uneasy, careful gait,” Troxel said. “Forced sudden movements as
well as defecating, urinating, lying down, getting up, and stepping over barriers
may be accompanied by groaning.”
In chronic cases, the animal may not want to eat and it isn't defecating in its usual
volume. In certain animals, milk production remains low. If you see any symptoms related to hardware disease, be sure to contact your veterinarian.
Treatment of the typical case seen early in its course may be surgical or medical.
Either approach improves the chances of recovery from approximately 60 percent in
untreated cases to 80-90 percent in treated cases.
In addition to sweeping potentially dangerous items into fields and pastures, flooding
can also increase the danger of blackleg, a fatal disease caused by the Clostridium chauvoei bacterium.
“Blackleg is a soil-borne bacterium infection and any disturbance to the soil such
as a flood may increase the exposure of the bacterium to the cattle,” he said. “Blackleg is seasonal with
most cases occurring in the warm months of the year - which is coming up. Excavation
of soil or soil disturbance is also a concern.”
Blackleg symptoms include: lameness, depression, fever but most of the time sudden
death – meaning treatment is useless. However, blackleg vaccine is one of the cheapest
vaccines to purchase for cattle. It is recommended vaccinating all calves and also
vaccinating the cows to ensure good maternal transfer for the next calf.