Lead in cattle raises concern

THE increasing incidence of lead poisoning in cattle could potentially contaminate commercially available meat, a Wagga veterinarian has warned.After seeing a significant increase in the number of cases of cattle with lead poisoning in the past 10 years, Wagga vet Dr Tony Morton from the Hume Livestock and Pest Authority yesterday said there could be consumer health implications for the livestock industry if lead residues went undetected."There is a potential risk if undiagnosed, but there are pretty convincing signs of lead poisoning," he said."One impact would be lead residue in offal. We don't want it to go undetected and shipped off to European countries."Dr Morton said the incidence of cattle contracting lead poisoning had increased in the past 10 years and drought conditions had exacerbated the problem. "In the last 12 months I've seen three cases, which is very unusual," he said.Dr Morton said in one of the most recent cases he'd seen, a small herd gained access to an old lead battery. Within 10 days, two cows had died and another two were sick. Six more were found to have high levels of lead in their blood when tested."It's a significant condition ... it's significant in terms of deaths it causes and the cost of lab tests to clear the balance of the herd to see if they are fit for sale," he said."Some livestock owners have seen $800 cows dying."Deaths may be the tip of an expensive issue."