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Producers should examine pastures for post-tornado debris

Storm debris poses danger to livestock. Look for insulation, metal objects and other debris. Checking pastures may be time-consuming but necessary.

Insulation and building debris from severe storm events such as the tornadoes that struck Oklahoma May 19-20 can litter pastures, causing potentially significant negative effects on livestock health and an agricultural operation’s economic bottom line.

Brian Freking, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension area livestock specialist, says cattle will eat just about anything that looks interesting in the pasture, underscoring the importance of livestock owners to examine their pastures for debris.

“Picking up debris from their pastures can be a painstaking, labor-intensive process given the potential amount of small debris,” he said. “Obviously, people come first, but when a producer gets a moment, he or she needs to walk the pastures; it just needs to be done, and as quickly as possible.”

Insulation can cause bloat, impaction and gastro-intestinal problems when consumed, including possible hemorrhaging of the rumen and irritation to the lining of the digestive tract. Cattle may ingest nails, pieces of wire and other small pieces of metal. “Hardware” disease, a disease of cattle ingesting foreign bodies such as described above, can be a result.

A single piece of wire consumed by a bull, cow, heifer or calf can drop down into the reticulum, one of the stomachs, where it can pierce the heart or other internal organs. Other problems sometimes associated with “hardware” disease include shutting down of the rumen, depression, acute pain and decreased milk production.

“Cattle producers may want to administer rumen magnets – also sometimes referred to as reticular magnets – if there appears to be a significant amount of metal debris in pastures,” said Dr. D.L. Step, OSU Cooperative Extension veterinarian. “A rumen magnet may be a health-care investment well worth the money.”

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Local large-animal veterinarians have information on rumen magnets, including associated costs and availability.

“Insulation debris is more problematic because of the small size,” Step said. “Producers are unlikely to rid their pastures of every bit of insulation. If animals exhibit signs of insulation-related problems, producers should contact their local veterinarians immediately.”

Treatment of cattle suffering from insulation problems is symptomatic.

“Your local veterinarian will treat on a case-by-case basis,” Step said. “This might mean employing a treatment with laxatives, mineral oil, fluid therapy or, in certain cases, surgery.”

Nails and other sharp metal objects of various sizes also create a significant hazard to the feet and legs of animals.

“It’s very common for these objects to cause puncture wounds and cuts in the feet and legs of livestock,” Freking said.

Often these metal objects have been carried by wind or washed into water holes, ponds or other areas accessible to livestock and are a potential source of injury.

“It’s prudent for livestock owners to keep this in mind when they have animals showing lameness,” Freking said. “If an animal is lame for more than one or two days and the lameness continues to worsen, it should be examined by a veterinarian.”

Additional information on after-the-storm practices is available online through the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at A video of Glenn Selk, OSU Cooperative Extension emeritus animal scientist, speaking on storm-related cattle management also is available online via the site, as part of his weekly Cow-Calf Corner segment.



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