J. Phys. IV France
Volume 107, May 2003
Page(s) 409 - 413

J. Phys. IV France
107 (2003) 409
DOI: 10.1051/jp4:20030328

Haemorrhagic diarrhoea and reproductive failure in Bonsmara cattle resulting from anomalous heavy metal concentrations in soils, forages and drinking water associated with geochemical anomalies of toxic elements on the farm Puntlyf, South Africa

J.H. Elsenbroek1, J. Meyer2 and J. Myburgh3

1  Council for Geoscience (Geological Survey), Private Bag X112, Pretoria 001, South Africa
2  Department of Animal & Wildlife Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
3  Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa

Poor livestock health conditions are associated with geochemical Pb anomalies on a farm approximately 40 km east of Pretoria, South Africa. A generic risk assessment of drinking water for Bonsmara cattle obtained from three separate subterranean water sources on the farm, revealed the presence of several potentially hazardous constituents suspected for the development of adverse health effects in the herd. The two main symptoms of the herd, namely, severe haemorrhagic diarrhoea in calves and reproductive failure in cows, have been investigated. A selenium-induced copper deficiency was proposed as the main cause to the calf diarrhoea, due to complexing between high concentrations of Se, Mo, Hg and Pb in drinking water. It was also anticipated that such Cu deficiencies would lead to low systemic Se inducing hypothyroidism in the cows due to inadequate iodine activation required for thyroid hormone formation and consequently adversely affect reproduction. The anomalous Pb in borehole drinking water on the southem part of the farm, suggests a clear genetic link with the underlying geochemical Pb anomalies detected by means of an ongoing regional geochemical survey.

© EDP Sciences 2003