Veterinary advice: Tracking down a lost piece of electric fencing wire

Farmers must make it their business to take care of all the electric fencing around the farm.

The cow was ready in the head gate for me.

She had been going downhill for a while, and on this day had produced no more than a cup of milk.

Her temperature was up slightly, but not of fever proportions, and her rumen was turning over nicely.

She did not appear to have any gas sounds in the wrong places, thus indicating no obvious displacements.

Moving forward to the chest, I could not hear any heartbeat on the left hand side. This was highly unusual. On the right hand side, I could hear the heart, so something massive was filling the space between the heart and the ribs on the left hand side.

I was thinking that this could either be an abscessed sac around the heart, or maybe a very large tumour. In any case, the decision was made to put the cow to sleep, and to carry out a necropsy at the knackery.

Upon getting the all clear from the knackery that the department had carried out their inspections, I headed out to do a necropsy.

The knackery staff have always been helpful, and having hoisted the carcass up, my man opened the abdomen and landed the bellies out on the ground.

On visual examination, there seemed to be little out of place. As usual I asked him to land the heart and lungs out as well.

WHOOSH!

There was almost an explosion, as the poor lad was covered in pus. There must have been gallons of fluid.

It was little wonder that I could not hear the heart on the left hand side, when the poor cow was still alive.

The hunt was on. I had to find out where this abscess had started. I had a good hunch that a piece of wire was the most likely culprit.

Usually, the cow swallows a piece of wire with some silage. This wire ends up in the main stomach, the rumen, and eventually makes its way to the second stomach, the reticulum, which is like a sump under the big rumen.

As the cow is constantly turning the main stomach over, once a minute, this piece of wire gets shoved around. It often tends to fall forward, with gravity, through the diaphragm to the sac that surrounds the heart. This lies just beyond the diaphragm.

Obviously, the piece of wire brings bacteria with it from the stomachs, and infection sets in. Sometimes the animal is noticed sick, and attended to at an early stage. Such animals can be saved, but more often than not, the situation develops beyond redemption.

Following this possible line of movement, I eventually found the piece of wire that I was looking for. It was a piece of high-tensile wire about the length of my thumb. Having taken a photograph of it for the record, I held on to the piece of wire to eventually give it to my client.

Where does the bit of wire in the silage come from?

The most likely place is from an electric fence wire that has been left lying on the ground in the silage field.

Unknown to the silage contractor, this wire is lurking in the long grass, waiting to be chopped up into the silage.

This, of course, is preventable. Farmers must make it their business to take care of all the electric fencing around the farm.

It is an easy thing to open the gap into a paddock and sling the wire to one side forgetting about it. So take care this year in the silage ground.



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