Rumen Magnets and Hardware Disease

April 9, 2012

in Articles

by Gabriella Nanci

Cows eat metal. There are various explanations for how and why. Sometimes it is accidental ingestion, such as wires baled into the hay. Sometimes they eat metal because of mineral deficiencies. Sometimes they are just curious or bored. When a cow eats a piece of metal it is taken into the cow’s rumen (first stomach compartment). The metal may then be pushed into the reticulum (another stomach compartment), and can be fatal if it causes peritonitis, (abdominal infection caused by stomach contents leaking into the belly) irritation of the heart, or bloating from irritation of the vagus nerve.

There are basically two ways to prevent hardware disease. One is to limit animals’ access to small metal objects. The biggest culprit is often fencing supplies such as nails dropped on the ground. The second way is to place rumen magnets in all your animals. A rumen magnet is like a very large pill that that animal is forced to swallow with a pill gun. The magnet stays in the cow’s rumen for the life of the animal and traps any metal the animal may swallow.

Dexters and Rumen Magnets:
Because of the smaller size of our animals we have to be a little picky in choosing magnets and timing their placement. The guidelines are to place the magnet in the animal at the time the animal is eating mostly solid food. For Dexters, I would make sure they are at least 6 months old. Most of the models are fine, I have pictured a few that we have used. You will also need to buy a balling gun similar to the one shown. It is best to hold the tied animal’s head up, put the balling gun in through the side of the mouth, straighten the gun so that it is lined up with the direction of the head and the plunger is in front, (leaving the gun so it is at about the same depth in the mouth as when you started, basically the back of the mouth, but not really down the throat), and push the plunger. Usually one attempt will do it, but if they manage to bring the magnet back up, you can repeat the process.

Important Note: I would definitely not recommend the BovieVet magnet for Dexters that are not full grown. The BovieVet magnet has a protective plastic grid on it and its own special balling gun. The whole package is much too large for our cows, we had animals have difficulty swallowing it, and we had to put one heifer on steroids after her throat swelled up from the damage. We have had no complications with any of the other magnets.

Another note: Do not try to flavor the magnet with molasses or honey. It is sticky and harder to get down, plus it creates more salivation. With sticky stuff, the animals are likely to bring the magnet up, suck the honey off and spit out the magnet.

Alnimax Alnico Magnet

Jeffers Item PM-M3 Alnimax Alnico Magnet, $3.15

Blackmax Coated Magnet

Jeffers Item PM-01 Blackmax Coated Magnet, $1.74

Jeffers Balling Gun

Jeffers Item JI-B1 Jeffers Balling Gun, Plastic Head, $11.95

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