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On Farm Lead Poisoning and It's Dangers - Farming Insurance

31 May 2018

In spring time, when the livestock are turned out of their winter housing onto grass pasture, there can be an increase in cases of lead poisoning. Often these involve young cattle who are naturally inquisitive of their new surroundings.

As Bruce Stevenson are highly active within the farming community as a trusted insurance broker, we thought it would be helpful to explore this issue in greater depth.


What can cause Lead Poisoning?


  • - Seepage from burnt out cars & abandoned or discarded machinery

  • - Vehicle batteries or batteries used for electric fencing

  • - Bonfire ash

  • - Flaky lead paint on buildings

  • - Lead shot from shoots

  • - Piping and flashing left in an accessible location


What effect can this have on the livestock?


  • - Sudden fatality

  • - Infertility in breeding stock

  • - Blindness

  • - Nervous diseases

There have been 47 instances of animal death since 2015 as a direct result of lead poisoning. In each case, these accidents could have been avoided.


As well as the loss of the animal, there are other impacts to be considered:


  • - Slower animal growth and loss of market value

  • - Decreased production (Milk)

  • - Birth abnormalities and defects in the progeny, due to exposure to lead by the parent stock

  • - Associated fatality costs such as disposal and vets fees

There is minimum 16 week restriction placed on all animals entering the food chain, resulting in extra feeding costs, loss of condition and the impact on the business’s cash flow.

It is worth highlighting that food legislation prohibits dairy, meat & offal from entering the food chain if there is an increased level of lead.


How can you avoid lead contamination on your farm?


  • - Make sure that there is no lead paint on buildings which are in the vicinity of the livestock. Replace paint where you can with non-leaded paint but in the meantime, ensure it is cordoned off.

  • - Check fields before livestock are turned out to make sure that there are no vehicle batteries discarded there, and that there is no fly tipping, burnt out cars or other items containing lead such as piping or flashing. If there is, then arrange for these to be removed prior to the field being grazed.


If you come across livestock that may have been affected by lead poisoning, you should:


  • - Remove the cause & restrict access

  • - Move livestock to a different location/ pasture

  • - Contact your vet for advice

  • - Tests for lead are not expensive and can be arranged via your Vets and SAC.

Source – Food Standards Scotland, SAC Consulting, Scottish Government


 Jean Arnott-Glennie - Farms & Estates Account Executive at Bruce Stevenson Insurance BrokersJean Arnott-Glennie

Farms & Estates Account Executive


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