Cattle ingestion of pieces of metal would be responsible for the death of around 29,000 of them each year in French farms, according to the National Food Safety Agency (Anses), which recommends administer magnets to the animal to prevent serious injury.
In addition to these deaths on farms, around 30,000 cattle carcasses per year would be totally or partially excluded from consumption in slaughterhouses, due to internal lesions linked to the migration of these foreign bodies, continues ANSES in an opinion published on Wednesday. In these cases, the meat is not recoverable.
These two figures added together represent 0.6% of cattle over two years old present in France annually (9.86 million cattle), notes ANSES, which had been contacted on this subject by the Robin des Bois association.
“It is a phenomenon of magnitude. 7 to 10% of the herd is concerned”, comments for AFP Eric Vial, director of risk assessment at ANSES. “Canadians have told us they are having the same kind of problem,” he adds.
The majority of foreign bodies found in the belly of cows are wires and nails, present on the farms.
The metal structures of used tires, used to hold the tarpaulins covering the forage, are particularly formidable. But there are also the ends of fences torn off when cutting hedges and construction waste.
For the animal, the presence of these essentially metallic foreign bodies in its stomach can be a source of severe pain and cause serious lesions (peritonitis), sometimes fatal.
In its opinion, ANSES recommends administering orally to cattle a magnet of a few centimeters, “at the first evocative signs”. Once in the rumen, it can trap metal debris and prevent them from causing lesions by migrating into fragile organs (heart, diaphragm).
Studies carried out in dairy farms in Quebec have demonstrated the effectiveness of this method, indicates ANSES.
The Agency studied the degradation of the magnet in the animal’s body. “The experiments show that the degradation is extremely slow and that ultimately the substances it contains are not likely to present a danger to animals” or to humans consuming these products of animal origin, says Eric Vial.
“We conclude on a benefit / disadvantage very much in favor of the administration of the magnet,” he says.
He underlines the importance of preventive measures to avoid the presence of pieces of metal in the environment of cows. For example, stop using used tires to cover fodder, equip certain agricultural equipment with an electromagnet, in order to trap ferromagnetic objects.