Treat Hardware Disease in Cows Using Rumen Magnets


Photo by John Klar 

"Miro", the Hereford bull. Photos by John Klar

One great benefit of cows is their resilience — rugged, and uncomplaining. But even cows have their Achilles heels; or, in this case, an Achilles rumen. It is easy for such big eaters to ingest rusted metal or old tacks in feed or just milling around munching on old shingles or whatever they find to sample.

This is called “Hardware Disease” (or, traumatic reticuloperitonitis) and can become very serious in both beef and dairy cows. Some farmers routinely deposit one or two “cow magnets” in all their cows, where they will remain their entire lives as precautionary prophylactics,  More often, a farmer will see the signs -- kicking the belly, an arched back or uneasy gait,  laying down and getting up in discomfort, a drop in feed consumption or milk production. 

The damage to a cow can become severe:

Swallowed metallic objects, such as nails or pieces of wire, fall directly into the reticulum or pass into the rumen and are subsequently carried over the ruminoreticular fold into the cranioventral part of the reticulum by ruminal contractions. The reticulo-omasal orifice is elevated above the floor, which tends to retain heavy objects in the reticulum, and the honeycomb-like reticular mucosa traps sharp objects. Contractions of the reticulum promote penetration of the wall by the foreign object…. Perforation of the wall of the reticulum allows leakage of ingesta and bacteria, which contaminates the peritoneal cavity…. The object can penetrate the diaphragm and enter the thoracic cavity (causing pleuritis and sometimes pulmonary abscessation) and the pericardial sac (causing pericarditis, sometimes followed by myocarditis). Occasionally, the liver or spleen may be pierced and become infected, resulting in abscessation, or septicemia can develop.

Funny thought, to simply make the cow gulp down a magnet, which pulls the offending object away from those important areas and restores health — for life. Farmers have always been resourceful, and the simple solution is best!

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