Steel-Belted Tires Poses New Risk to Livestock

US - After noting cattle necropsies from March 2007, SDSU Extension Veterinarian Russ Daly, conducted a series of examinations which later led to the finding of thin wires inside the carcasses. The wires came from tire feeding stations and caused hardware disease.
calendar icon 27 March 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

"A practitioner in central South Dakota submitted some animals to our diagnostic lab, and we found signs of hardware disease in the animals," said Daly. "We found the source was deteriorating tire feeders."

Daly said the worn feeders expose lengths of thin wire over time. Friction from feeding cattle causes these wires to break off and fall into the bunk. "The wire is ingested, then penetrates internal organs," said Daly. "This can lead to bleeding and infection."

"Any old, corroded tire with exposed wire is a potential for hardware disease."
ennifer Poindexter, veterinarian.

David H. Zeman, director of the SDSU Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, and head of the Veterinary Science Department, and Jennifer Poindexter, the veterinarian from Ree Heights who initially treated the livestock, presented information on their findings at South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association annual meeting in August 2007.

They also published their findings in the February 2008 issue of "Animal Health Matters," the publication of the SDSU Veterinary Science Department and the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory.

Poindexter said the symptoms of livestock afflicted were vague. "Oftentimes it is just some off cows, or some drooling," she said. "We'll have reports of the cows not coming up to eat, or abortion problems in the herd."

Poindexter said her initial investigations offered few clues. "We found cows that were not really sick, but they were just not healthy," she said. "When we did the necropsy, then we found the wire."

Daly said even if producers do not see vague signs of illnesses, they should check all tire feeders with care.

"The best plan would be to take a really hard look at the feeders, to see if they are showing signs of wear," Daly said. "If they are showing wear, then discontinue the use of those feeders."

All tires around the farm should be inspected, said Poindexter.

"Some producers are using them for water, and as weight to hold down tarps," she said. "They need to check them all for exposed wire, so that it doesn't work its way into the feed. Any old, corroded tire with exposed wire is a potential for hardware disease."

Antibiotics and veterinary care can help livestock if the disease is caught soon enough. Poindexter said the use of bolus magnets may provide some reduction in losses.

Daly said he would not discourage the use of tire feeders in South Dakota, but those bunks in use should be in good condition. "This is certainly no epidemic, nor something that would wipe out a herd," he said. "But it does give us an answer to some of those lingering health concerns we have seen in cattle."

A video that shows Daly and Poindexter explaining this new cause of hardware disease is available at

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