Up to 70 local people turned out “to comb” a field in North Kerry where 20 cattle died after ingesting lead in the past week.
The deaths — which came after the young cattle licked pieces of discarded battery in a number of locations in the six-acre roadside field at Meelcon, Tarbert — is the subject of a garda investigation.
Gardaí have again appealed for information from the public.
The chairman of the IFA in Kerry, Sean Brosnan, said batteries were highly dangerous because they leaked lead and “the cattle had died a horrible death”.
In addition, others animals had been blinded from the lead poisoning.
Gardaí said they were keeping an open mind on whether the battery pieces were discarded carelessly by a passer-by as rubbish or dumped deliberately with the intention of targeting the cattle. They are conducting door to door enquiries in the Tarbert area.
John Stack, who is the chairman of the Farm Family Committee of the North and East Kerry Development body and a former chairman of Kerry IFA said the farmers, Ned O’Hanlon and his son Patrick O’Hanlon, were very upset at the loss.
The family, who also farmed 50km away at Caha, Doon, near Tralee, had bought the land at Meelcon in recent years. Most of the family members had been in Germany at a family wedding when the incident took place.
“The public solidarity on Friday evening was a great comfort to them,” Mr Stack said.
Mr Stack, who decided to organise the search at 12pm on Friday, said he was astonished at how many people showed up.
The cost of the losses is estimated to be in the region of €11,000 and, in effect, “all of the 2017” replacement cows had been destroyed. Some 46 calves had also been in the field.
The field at Meelcon had been “combed inch by inch” to make sure it was safe for cattle, and a nearby field, also belonging to the O’Hanlons, was also searched.
Mr Stack said the combers found “a lot of stuff” in the form of discarded pieces of battery — in two or three different places, at least 18m apart.
He said a person need want “a great throw” to scatter the pieces over the ditch and so widely.
Insp Pat O’Connell of Listowel, who is co-ordinating the investigation into the deaths, said gardaí would like to hear from the public on the incident, particularly if anyone saw the broken-up batteries being thrown into the field.
“At this early stage we are conducting a lot of local enquiries,” Insp O’Connell said.
The incident occurred between July 29 and August 2. Most of the cattle, who comprised almost half the herd in the field at the time, died over the bank holiday weekend, with the last deaths on Wednesday last.
Vets visited the scene and samples from the dead animals have been sent for analysis.
Gardaí believe the cattle licked the broken-up battery and contracted lead poisoning, which is almost always fatal to cattle.
Lead poisoning affects the blood, liver, and neurological system, causes frothing in the mouth, staggering, and other symptoms. It is a factor in the deaths of a number of cattle each year, according to vets, and curious calves are particularly susceptible.
Gardaí in Listowel are asking anyone with any information to contact them at 068 50827.
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