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Watch Your Tires!

Inverted tires can make great structures to hold cattle feed and water, but if not properly maintained can cause hardware disease.

Cattle with Tire FeedersInverted tires can make great structures to hold cattle feed and water, but regular maintenance is required. If the tires you are using on your operation have wire in the walls, this wire can break off and subsequently be consumed by cattle. Cattle ingesting these pieces of wire can develop a condition known as hardware disease.

Once wire is swallowed, it goes into the digestive system and often gets trapped in the chamber of the stomach called the reticulum. The reticulum is the chamber that has honeycomb-shaped structures on the walls and functions to trap foreign materials. If the wire punctures the reticulum wall, digesta and other  stomach contents can leak through the wall and cause a condition called peritonitis. Peritonitis can lead to general unthriftiness and also may cause systemic infections. Both of these conditions may be observed, and cattle with a continually declining health status eventually may need to be culled.

Photo by Jon OwenMetal, wire and other foreign materials in the reticulum also can lead to sudden death. The diaphragm is the thin muscle that divides the abdominal cavity (which contains the stomach, intestine, liver, etc.) from the thoracic cavity (which contains the heart and lungs). The anatomy of cattle is such that the reticulum and the heart are close to each other, separated only by the diaphragm. (Photo: Wire sticking out of the reticulum. Taken by Jon Owen)

In instances when cattle experience severe abdominal contractions (for example, while delivering a calf), foreign material in the reticulum can be forced through the reticulum wall and into the heart. If this happens, the animal will die shortly thereafter. Alternatively, the metal may pierce only the protective layers around the heart and cause inflammation and/or infection. Either way, it is not a good situation!

To attempt to avoid hardware disease, perform regular maintenance on your tire feeders. Cut or grind off exposed wire and make sure to pick up pieces and remove them from the cattle-feeding area. This also highlights the importance of cleaning any wire, nails or other metal scraps from areas to which cattle have access and including powerful magnets in feed mixers to prevent hardware disease in your cattle.

Carl Dahlen, NDSU Beef Cattle Extension Specialist

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