Cows are curious creatures. They investigate anything that is new or different in their pastures or pens by smelling, nudging, or tasting the object. This can be when construction or repairs are done, or new water bowls and gates are installed. Unfortunately, when some objects are discovered, they can cause problems such as hardware disease, lead poisoning (old batteries) or possibly digestive problems or death when plastic from net wrap or twine are consumed.
There are documented cases where there have been sudden cattle deaths with no apparent cause. One case, was investigated by Dr. John Campbell from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon (Canadian Cattlemen’s Magazine 2014). Upon his arrival on the farm, he noted that the operation was well run, cows were in good condition. The cow that died were close to calving and did not exhibit any symptoms of ill health prior to their deaths.
Post mortems were conducted on the cows. They found that the rumen was full of feed and a “large mass of bale net wrap that appeared to have obstructed the outflow from the rumen.” Dr. Campbell surmised that the pressure from a full rumen and the cow being near calving resulted in severe pressure being put on the lungs, restricting the ability to breathe and the animal suffocated to death.
This example is the most severe result that can occur. But, lesser volumes of net wrap can be trapped in the rumen which impacts animal performance. This reduces the space available for ingested feed. Nutrient intake is lower and this can reduce animal condition because they are not maintaining body weight, compromise the production of colostrum and impair milk production after calving. Some of the symptoms may go un-noticed, but may be a reason why the calves did not weigh as much as they should at weaning.
If at all possible, remove net wrap (and / or twine) from bales before feeding. Pick up any plastic that is found in the pens or in feeding areas.
For additional information, give me at call at 403-741-6032