Update for Vicke the Vet

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Anonymous

My “affected” calf died at 50 days of age. During the last couple of weeks of his life he would go from normalcy, to periods of mild incoordination , to increasing longer periods of recumbancy , in which he was unable to rise, was blind, unresponsive and maintained a degree of convulsive type activity. Later I would find him prone, normal appearing and exhausted.

Believing my vets ‘guess’ that it was a type of congenital syndrome, I shrugged it off as just one of those things, and that I would likely never see again.

Yesterday I discovered another. This calf since three weeks ( now 2 months) of age has been our pet. He runs over on a daily basis during our walkthroughs, to get a scratch and to offer to head bunt in play. We got our usual visitation by him in the morning . In the afternoon I had been watching a newborn trying to nurse. And that’s when I spotted him unable to rise. He could get his back legs up but was unable to lift himself on the front end, and I watched in horror as he continued to flop about.

I called the vet and told them we were coming right over. By the time we had the trailer hitched up, the calf was up and walking about. He lost control and collapsed 3 times on the way into the corral and we were fortunate to get him and his mother loaded.

Of course the calf unloaded at the vet as normal appearing as any other healthy calf, but within 5 minutes started to slip on the front end, and within 10 minutes was totally spastic and somewhat blind. He had no blink reflex to a hit threat. A few minutes later he was up on his feet again and they examined his behaviour outside. He seemed to be able to see solid wall objects but not see the bars on the panels and would walk right into them.

The two vets examining him came up with a tentative diagnosis of lead poisoning. They took several vials of blood for testing, and treated him with calcium EDTA. He said it would be no real benefit, because the damage is already done neurologically speaking. They also examined the cow and found her to be in perfect health.

I have lived on this farm for 27 years and never had a case of lead poisoning. Where would it come from(?) Is the question we asked ourselves. It had to be something different. We have two oil wells on the property but the calves have not been in those pastures yet.

There is a badger hole on the side of a slope, and this spring the cows have gotten into this and dug quite a deep, broad hole. I have noticed this before, in other pastures and wonder why they like to dig into it. And lay in it… and lounge in it….and flip the dirt over there back with a hoof. That’s all the cows do there, but the calves like to lick the dirt. Calves lick and taste everything. They are like human babies in that everything goes into the Mouth at least once. Closer examination of this hole shows me that things were buried here years and years ago. I can see metal pieces and a few bones. The metal pieces look like large machinery parts. And there likely could be decayed batteries, outdated chemicals, any number of toxic items thrown away by the people who lived here 100 years ago. No doubt that is the source of contamination right there.

When we bought this place, we spent several months cleaning up trash. Little did we know that some of it was buried as well. All we can do is fence it off.

That’s my sad story. Hopefully my loss can be someone else’s gain by simply making them aware of how easily this kind of thing can occur.

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Anonymous

Have your vets definitely ruled out "white muscle disease" -- which, as I understand it, is a result of selenium deficiency? I can't imagine something buried in the ground a hundred years ago causing you problems today, since moisture going through the soil would/should leach the contaminants down into the soil further. If the calves were eating pieces of metal, then I can see a build up that way, but of course, I am not an expert in such things. One of the questions I would ask about lead poisoning is: How much lead does one have to ingest to be poisoned? This also presupposes that the ONLY thing the calf was eating was lead, don't you think? I am not saying that this isn't your problem, but I am asking if a pre-determined mind set isn't ruling out other more obvious things. Selenium deficiency would explain why the adult animals aren't affected, but the calves are. Inquiring minds want to know... which isn't to say that we don't all want to rush out to the land and clean up the trash. Thanks for the warning.

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Anonymous

Omak, the Vet did not even consider White Muscle...I suppose its not a big factor in this area. I don't think the cattle were 'eating' metal, only that the area suggests dumping of anything toxic.. batteries.... old chemical compounds.....lead paint..etc.

I don't think anything was predetermined at the examination, other than he exhibits classical signs of lead poisoning according to the veterinarian. I will not get the blood results back until next week and I don't know what else he may be testing for. At this point of poisoning the level of lead in the blood may be hard to detect, and the results may be inconclusive. If... er when the calf dies, I will submit a kidney for further testing. Will update later.



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Anonymous

Just a month or so ago I read an article in Hoards Dairyman about the same problem, except it was an old shed with lead paint. They had stacked the wood out of the way, in a pasture, and planned on using it later. If I remember correctly the guy lost a good number of heifer calves.

dunmovin farms

> Omak, the Vet did not even
> consider White Muscle...I suppose
> its not a big factor in this area.
> I don't think the cattle were
> 'eating' metal, only that the area
> suggests dumping of anything
> toxic.. batteries.... old chemical
> compounds.....lead paint..etc.

> I don't think anything was
> predetermined at the examination,
> other than he exhibits classical
> signs of lead poisoning according
> to the veterinarian. I will not
> get the blood results back until
> next week and I don't know what
> else he may be testing for. At
> this point of poisoning the level
> of lead in the blood may be hard
> to detect, and the results may be
> inconclusive. If... er when the
> calf dies, I will submit a kidney
> for further testing. Will update
> later.
 
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Anonymous

I don't mean to sound like I am poo-pooing any of these problems. I guess, my real question should be... how much lead does it take to poison an animal as big as a yearling heifer? I know we are all working so hard to ensure that our animals are safe ... The other day, I moved some dirt into the receiving pen to fill in a low spot, hoping to avoid the lake that appears after hard rain. I mean, we are talking an area that is ten by twenty-five, very small. I took the dirt from a hill over the way. A week to ten days later, I was out walking with the calf, and looked down.... there was a t-joint for plumbing in something, and I KNOW that it came in with that three scoops of fill I brought in. NOW, I have to sift everything because whoever was moving dirt before we got here, was a PIG!.... why would anyone with land that animals may graze on sometime in the future, be so THOUGHTLESS! Tonight, we were out walking the calf in the big pasture, and low and behold, we found a portion of VERY old barbed-wire and gate workings. I can't imagine having HUNDREDS of acres to try to monitor for these kinds of things. I'm sorry for all the troubles you are having.

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Anonymous

Lead poisoning is unfortunately something that does produce head pressing, blindness and recumbency. There is basophilic stippling seen on the red cells if it has been chronic, and it can cause anemia. I've only seen a couple of cases, one actually had batteries in the pasture with the cattle. How much lead does it take--not much! I'm sure there are websites with the exact number of micrograms--yes, micrograms, not milligrams. Lead being a heavy metal, it doesn't leach down too far, likely due to actually particle size.

Treatment with EDTA is appropriate, and can reverse the symptoms somewhat--there will be a lot of damage that's permanent, but some may reverse!

Here's a website with some info... <A HREF="http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/agdex/600/63-40.html" TARGET="_blank">http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/agdex/600/63-40.html</A>

Sorry to hear what happened, but if this is the problem, it won't happen to more of your animals!
 
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Anonymous

About 10 years ago we bought a piece of property that had belonged to the same family for over 30 years. The fellow was a welder . . . we're still finding old metal of every type and size with each spring thaw. We had been adding the collection to a fenced-in pile of metal & finally felt we had collected the majority of the trash, so brought in a dumpster last fall and started having it hauled out. Hope to finish the job this summer.

I'm sure we'll always find scrap metal, but the supply is diminishing. Cleaned up quite a few "antique" beer cans and whiskey bottles, too.

These people, besides collecting scrap metal, raised & ran about 30 race horses on the property for all those years.

More than the metal, I think a continuing problem in our farm community is the terible scattering of poly hay string. We pick up every piece of hay string and dispose of it immediately. It took us about 5 years to get rid of the old hay string buried in this property. It would come up with spring thaw, too.

A friend gave us a slaughter cow when we first moved here. I couldn't get her to put on weight, no matter what I fed her. When she was slaughtered, we found a ball of hay twine about the size of a basketball in her stomach, poor thing. And, those friends have PILES of hay string in all of their corrals and feeding areas. Most farmers around here don't bother to remove the twine when feeding round bales.
 
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Anonymous

WHOA! I was out in the pasture last night and found just the tiniest piece (about 2 inches square) of rusted metal. Hub caps out in the middle of nowhere.... not a rig in sight. My dad, who wouldn't THiNK to let the hay bale twine get out into the pasture, was throwing the haylage plastic bags down in the corral to try to fill in the mud. On many old homesteads, you find places where people had outhouses, and that is what it sounded like the other fellow's cattle dug into. I lived in Portland, Oregon in the 70s and found an old outhouse in the area I had chosen for my compost pile. I don't know that trying to put everything in the local landfill is any better. Your cow sort of explodes the myth that a cow stomach can digest just about anything that gets into it, eh? Makes one afraid to move the top layer of our soil, hoping the spring thaw won't uncover more just because we relieved some of nature's pressure. I guess we can be thankful that these things crop up a bit at a time, but maybe there are better ways to beat the cattle to them. Metal detectors can't pick up on twine and plastic. I find sauter (sp?) from welding, too. and little pieces of mesh... can't even imagine what that was used for. Thankfully, I haven't found any chemical dumps... and I ain't talkin' used motor oil, here.

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Anonymous

> My grandpa bought a place in Mo. and had a picture of himself standing on the seat of a wagon hitched to a pair of mules over 16 hands tall. they were in a ditch and grandpa's hat barely reached the top of the ditch. Over the years there were 2 sets of farm equip, houshold junk, several out buildings and an entire 3 storey mule barn filled into that ditch, as the ditch was filled to within 3 or 4 feet the neighbor would come with his dozer and finish covering the junk and then shape the depression into a waterway. By the time I was in highschool we were baling hay and farming over that gully like it wasn't there. When I bought my place I spent some time talking to old timers and found most of the junk piles. the first year or two the majority of farm income was scrap metal! WHOA! I was out in the pasture
> last night and found just the
> tiniest piece (about 2 inches
> square) of rusted metal. Hub caps
> out in the middle of nowhere....
> not a rig in sight. My dad, who
> wouldn't THiNK to let the hay bale
> twine get out into the pasture,
> was throwing the haylage plastic
> bags down in the corral to try to
> fill in the mud. On many old
> homesteads, you find places where
> people had outhouses, and that is
> what it sounded like the other
> fellow's cattle dug into. I lived
> in Portland, Oregon in the 70s and
> found an old outhouse in the area
> I had chosen for my compost pile.
> I don't know that trying to put
> everything in the local landfill
> is any better. Your cow sort of
> explodes the myth that a cow
> stomach can digest just about
> anything that gets into it, eh?
> Makes one afraid to move the top
> layer of our soil, hoping the
> spring thaw won't uncover more
> just because we relieved some of
> nature's pressure. I guess we can
> be thankful that these things crop
> up a bit at a time, but maybe
> there are better ways to beat the
> cattle to them. Metal detectors
> can't pick up on twine and
> plastic. I find sauter (sp?) from
> welding, too. and little pieces of
> mesh... can't even imagine what
> that was used for. Thankfully, I
> haven't found any chemical
> dumps... and I ain't talkin' used
> motor oil, here.

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Anonymous

man, does that bring back buried memories! When dad had a lot of acreage, there were depressions that gathered water, and he did like you were describing.... bathtubs... stoves... covered with a minimum of dirt and turned into hay pasture. I had forgotten all about that, but I DO remember that nothing going into the ground had any pieces that could be chewed off and swallowed, if the cattle happened to get in there. I enjoy watching craft programs, and have been intrigued with recycling, but I am beginning to re-think the long-range effects of recycling, some recycling, anyway. I have wondered what the long-term effect of concentrating garbage into the landfills we have begun seeing in the West.... garbage should be broken down as far as it will go toward returning to natural state. Of course, batteries, used oil, antifreeze, chemicals... I don't know how to keep from concentrating them.

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