Plastic bags may be convenient for us consumers, but if not recycled or discarded properly they could pose a real danger to cattle. How does a creation as popular, cheap, strong, lightweight and hygienic as the plastic bag that we consumers bring home our purchases from A to Z become such a hazard and environmental problem? There are more than hundred billion plastic bags used in the United States each year and plastic bags take over 1000 years to biodegrade and only 3 percent are recycled! We have heard about the pollution and the killing of marine life and wildlife that plastics create but what about the hazards to our domes-tic livestock?
I have had some calls about calves chewing on plastic sacks that blow around our pastures that have escaped from our trash or blown out of a vehicle. How much damage can plastics do to a cow’s digestive tract? Complete blockages of the digestive tract sometimes occur in cattle. Calves are curious and anything moving around the field becomes something to chew on. Blockages can happen when the plastic bag is eaten by the calf. If the blockage is complete, the calf will be dull and off food and will eventually die from a ruptured gut, shock, or peritonitis unless surgery is performed to remove the foreign material. Even though a mature cow has a larger gut, she could still have partial blockage.
Plastics play an important role in our daily lives. From the grocery store bag to the bottle of soda, we depend on plastics. As far as a solution, we could hope that the plastic grocery bag would one day be a relic, like the eight-track tape and the Model A. But for now what can we do? Recycling may not be popular with everyone; however, in rural America plastic bags can blow for miles so it is important to take care of your plastics not only for your cattle’s sake but your neighbors livestock as well. We are all in this thing together. It is going to take all of us to make the environment cleaner even keeping those practical, useful plastic sacks in your recycle bin.
Source: John Hobbs