Treat Hardware Disease in Cows Using Rumen Magnets

Reader Contribution by John Klar
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“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!

The author with his herd

If you own a cow exhibiting symptoms of abdominal stress or discomfort, consultation with your veterinarian is advised. But perhaps your bovine has hardware disease, and simply needs a $3 magnet!


John Klarraises grass-fed beef and sheep, and seeks to educate people about where their food comes from and how large corporate interests wish to dominate food production. He moved to Vermont and began farming in 1998. John and his wife, Jacqueline, built and operated an artisanal raw-milk cheese house, and have raised pigs, chickens, sheep, horses, cows, and goats, and grown many varieties of vegetables and herbs. Connect with John onFacebook, and watch his farming videos on YouTube. Read all of John’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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