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Maintain tire feeders

Tires retired from farm machinery often find new life as containers to hold feed and water for livestock. But if they're not maintained properly, tires can pose health risks for animals.

“If the tires you use have wire in the walls, small pieces can break off and fall into feed or water. Then cattle inadvertently consume the wire,” cautions Carl Dahlen, North Dakota State University Beef Extension Specialist.

Once the wire is swallowed, it travels into the digestive system where it can become trapped in the reticulum, a chamber of the stomach. This chamber, with its honeycomb-like lining, is designed to trap foreign materials.

“Cattle ingesting these pieces of wire can develop a condition known as hardware disease,” says Dahlen.

The disease, which is an irritation or infection of the diaphragm, heart, or lungs, is caused when the wire or metal punctures the side of the reticulum.

According to Dahlen, metal, wire, and other foreign materials in the reticulum can also lead to sudden death. He explains that the diaphragm is the thin muscle that divides the abdominal cavity (which contains the stomach, intestines, and other abdominal organs) from the thoracic cavity (which contains the heart and lungs). The reticulum and heart are close to each other, separated only by the diaphragm. If an animal has severe abdominal contractions, like it does when giving birth, foreign material in the reticulum can be pushed through the reticulum wall and into the heart.

“If this happens, the animal will die shortly thereafter,” says Dahlen. “Alternatively, the metal may pierce only the protective layers around the heart and cause inflammation, infection, or both. Either way, it's not a good situation.”

Prevent problems

By regularly maintaining and inspecting tire feeders, you can prevent problems. Here are three top tips.

• Cut or grind off exposed wire and remove it from the area where cattle feed.

• Keep all areas where cattle have access free of any wire, nails, or other metal scraps.

• Place powerful magnets in feed mixers.

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