Major health concerns for cattle and people investigated at Casino saleyard
Agents say dust is a major issue
SAFETY concerns have been raised about the Casino saleyards after the death of 20 cattle in two weeks.
Agents met last week to discuss what action they would take after the death of the cattle and health complaints from people who visited the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange.
The cattle had been penned at the saleyards, but the exact cause of death has yet to be determined by autopsy.
Auctioneers Association vice president Wayne Bulmer said sawdust used to cover the floor of the saleyards was a major issue, causing health problems for cattle and humans.
“A fine film of dust gets thrown up as the cattle move around,” Mr Bulmer said.
“It settles on the rails overnight. People are breathing it in. We believe it is causing health issues.”
Agents decided to contact Richmond Valley Council, which manages the facility, in the hope they would work together to find a solution.
The council’s general manager, Vaughan McDonald, said he had spoken with agents about their concerns and would work with them to resolve any issues.
“If there are issues, we’ll work in with the agents, and if there are genuine issues, we will address them,” he said.
Mr McDonald urged anyone whose cattle had died to get an autopsy and inform the council of the results so it could identify any problems at the facility. Mr Bulmer was concerned anyone visiting the facility was at risk.
“A buyer from Warwick was heading home after a sale (at Casino) when he started getting headaches. He couldn’t drive. He ended up in hospital with an asthma sort of thing,” he said.
Mr Bulmer said reports of headaches and migraines after attending the sales were becoming more common – “it’s getting worse and worse”.
Autopsies were being conducted by veterinarians on the 20 cattle.
Mr McDonald said sprinkler systems and larger, coarser chip was being used to make sure dust was not an issue.
He said 6500 cattle passed through the facility last week, and while he acknowledged there had been cattle deaths, he said the cause of the deaths had not yet been determined. Meanwhile veterinarian Liz Bolin said
A buyer from Warwick was heading home after a sale (at Casino) when he started getting headaches...
— Wayne Bulmer
post mortem results were needed to determine if sawdust at the saleyards contributed to the spike cattle deaths in the past month.
Dr Bolin, a North Coast Local Land Services district veterinarian, said the cattle, all weaners, died either at the NRLX Casino Saleyards or at St George or Coonamble after being transported from sales at the yards.
She said it was likely the cattle died of shipping fever, but the results of post mortems were needed to determine if the sawdust used at the saleyards was a contributing factor. She said shipping fever was common in the class of cattle that died, but there seemed to have been a spike in numbers, “that’s why people are talking about it”. Shipping fever can occur in stressed weaners with poor immune systems that haven’t been exposed to respiratory virus before, Dr Bolin said.
She said if dust problems were also added to the mix, then you have a compounding issue where cattle can die from pneumonia. Dr Bolin said Richmond Valley Council was looking into the cause of the deaths, and other options were available if sawdust was found to be a contributing factor, including river sand.
She said soft flooring was a step in the right direction in terms of animal welfare – cattle were suffering from lameness previously, caused by wet weather, concrete and rock flooring.
Dr Bolin said until results were in, it was just speculation sawdust was an issue: “We need a good post mortem to get to the bottom of it.”
WHAT LIES BENEATH: Sawdust used to cover the floor of the Casino saleyards is causing health problems for cattle and humans, according to livestock agents.