Aluminum cans in silage – problems for the cows and farmers

Last changed: 24 April 2020
Photo: Hands hoding metal pieces from the fields.

According to "Keep Sweden clean" land ownership survey 2013 showed that littering has been increased in Sweden in recent years and both farmland and forest lands are littered. To cultivate the grassland next to busy roads have a high risk of involvement of aluminum in the forage chain. Fragments from shredded aluminum cans can result in animals suffering from hardware disease leading to emergency slaughter. In the project "Aluminum cans in silage - problems for the cows and farmers" 16 dairy and beef producers, as well as veterinarians and inspection veterinarians in western Sweden have been interviewed in an attempt to determine whether and to what extent aluminum cans is a problem.

The interviewed farmers were found to have problems with litter along the roads, especially at the beginning and at the end of the tourist season. The garbage that was typically found in the feed area of the animals was shattered aluminum cans. A total of 51 cattle were emergency slaughtered due to hardware disease and the animals that were affected the most were cows. Costs for veterinary visits and emergency slaughter, according to estimates reach 33 000 sek. per emergency slaughtered dairy cow including production losses.

In 2013 5 274 cattle got the remark hardware disease at slaughter which represented 1.54% of the total number of slaughtered animals in Sweden. Of these, the proportion of cows was 54%. District veterinarians in the study rarely autopsied emergency slaughtered cattle but findings of aluminum have been made. Inspection veterinarians at the slaughterhouses detect damage caused by swallowed objects, but objects are seldom found.

Several of the interviewed farmers call for a technical solution to detect aluminum cans before they fall into the forage. Such equipment has been developed by two students at Halmstad University parallel to this study and may be tested by SLU in Skara during the summer of 2015, provided that funding is resolved.

The problem with littering remains, though.

This study is financed by Nötkreatursstiftelsen Skaraborg.

Contact Frida Dahlström for more information.

Page editor: gunilla.jacobsson@slu.se