8 December 1995

Lamb poison risk

LAMBS grazing set-aside run an increased risk of suffering poisoning from the arable and garden weed annual mercury.

The plant is common on light soils in southern England. A report in The Veterinary Record, Dec 2, 1995 states that 11 lambs in a flock of 400 eight-month-old Romney lambs grazing two 5.3ha (13-acre) set-aside fields in November died after a two-week grazing period.

Those affected showed signs of anaemia and above normal urea and copper blood levels. This type of poisoning had not been reported in Great Britain before.

Flowering annual mercury was found in both fields and had been grazed. It is most toxic at the flowering and seed-bearing stages and is usually regarded as unpalatable to grazing livestock.