Thousands of cows die every year from ingesting metal

Each year, around 30,000 cows die from injuries caused by ingesting metal fragments.

True symbols of rural France, cows are an essential part of our agricultural culture. It would therefore be easy to imagine that these emblematic totems of our countryside graze only the fresh grass of immaculate pastures. But the latest ANSES report spotted by Futura paints a rather worrying picture of their diet.

And it is not about the products that the breeders feed them. Rather, the problem stems from the waste that accumulates on certain farms. It was the Robin des Bois association that approached ANSES on this issue in 2019, after noting the worrying scale of a dramatic phenomenon: these cattle unfortunately tend to swallow a worrying amount of waste.

Based on “data collected in slaughterhouses, during autopsies and on farms, as well as on data in the scientific literature”, ANSES estimated that many animals were affected by the ingestion of foreign bodies, in particular metal, which directly threaten their health.

They are mainly wire and to a lesser extent nails which would come mainly from the activities around the exploitation. It can be the maintenance of machines or fences, site waste… Charlotte Dunoyer, head of unit at ANSES, explains that “the use of mechanization to concentrate the pieces of metal in the distributed food”.

Tens of thousands of animals die from these lesions each year

In total, the presence of these foreign bodies would concern 7 to 20% of the French herd, or 700,000 to 2,000,000 heads. Bad omen, knowing that they are at the origin of important consequences which can go as far as serious lesions of the digestive system. In total, this phenomenon would cause the death of around 29,000 cattle each year on French farms. This figure is already dramatic for the cows themselves, but also for the breeders. Because in addition to these lost animals, around 30,000 additional animals are declared “totally or partially”Unfit for consumption upon arrival at the slaughterhouse because of these lesions.

An incredible mess on so many levels. We know, for example, that many breeders are already struggling to make ends meet, and these losses can therefore constitute a considerable shortfall. It is also problematic from an environmental standpoint, given the major climate impact of this industry.

Magnetism to the rescue

To combat this phenomenon, which is assuming fairly large proportions, ANSES recommends a series of good practices likely to protect cattle. This requires increased vigilance on the equipment, in particular on the maintenance of fences and the various projects undertaken by the operations. The agency also suggests using electromagnets in the equipment used for feeding cows, in order to extract the pieces of metal before they are ingested by the cows.

Surprisingly, these magnets can even be used in another way; breeders can also place them in the cow’s rumen orally. They then make it possible to capture these foreign bodies before they migrate to fragile organs, such as the heart or the diaphragm. This would halve the risk associated with the presence of foreign bodies. In addition, according to ANSES, the magnet itself poses no risk to the health of the animal.

Other issues that can threaten livestock remain to be tackled. This includes chemical contamination of pastures from external sources and plastic pollution, which cannot be managed with magnets.

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