Pica in Cattle

What is Pica in Cattle?

Pica in cattle is defined as a cows’ desire to eat things that do not have any nutritional value e.g. licking clay, stones or other solid objects.

Symptoms of Pica in Cattle

  • Eating & licking stones off roadways
  • Licking clay from banks and ditches
  • Chewing water piping, cubicle mats, eating electric fence handles
  • Lameness, sore limbs, sore joints, & the sound cracking bones in older cows (severe cases)
  • Drinking or licking urine

Causes of Pica in Cattle

Pica can be caused by phosphorous deficiency. It is important to note that pica often occurs in herds that are thriving & healthy. Low dietary fibre in the cow’s diet, due to the rapidly growing grass during the breeding season can also cause pica. Typically associated with drought conditions and poor P index soils, a cold/dry spell in April/May can exacerbate the issue.

Problems from PICA in Cattle

Pica can lead to:

  • Loose dung
  • Reduced ‘cudding’ and therefore saliva production, which can result in ruminal acidosis due to the decreased buffering from saliva within the rumen
  • Reduced milk fats due to a change in the balance of fatty acids being produced by a more acidic rumen
  • Feed intake drops and therefore milk production suffers

Pica in Cattle – Treatment

Give cows access to a source of long fibre such as straw, hay or stemmy silage in the paddock or near the collecting yard
Feed Additional Phosphorus.
Extra sodium (salt blocks) can aid in reducing the problem of pica.
It is recommended to take blood samples from the herd to diagnose if there is a phosphorous deficiency present.

Phosphorous can be easily added through the drinking water and will rectify the deficiency in a relatively short time period. Terra NutriTECH has Phosphorous available in 20kg drums & 200kg barrels & can be dispensed manually or automatically through our OPIS or OrbVie dispensing systems.

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