Lead poisoning of calves pastured in the target area of a military shooting range

U. Braun, Nicola Pusterla, P. Ossent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Five calves, seven to nine months of age, were put on pasture in the target area of a shooting range in early May. Acute lead poisoning occur-red in one of the calves after five days of grazing; the remainder became ill one to three days later. The most important symptoms consisted of neurological disturbances and included maniacal movements, opisthotonus, drooling, rolling of the eyes, convulsions, licking, champing of the jaws, bruxism, bellowing and breaking through fences. All but one calf, which was euthanatized, died within several hours of the occurrence of the first symptoms. In one calf, the concentration of lead in samples of whole blood (940 μg/1), liver (38 mg/kg wet weight) and kidney (30 mg/kg wet weight) were markedly increased. Post mortem examination of this calf revealed acute cardiac, renal and pulmonary haemorrhage, acute tubulonephrosis and acute severe pulmonary emphysema. The concentration of lead in the dry matter of a grass and a soil sample from the target zone of the shooting range were 29'550 mg/ kg and 3900 mg/kg, respectively. Further investigation revealed that this area had been used as a military shooting range for many years, and in the previous year, approximately 20'000 bullets with lead contents of either 3.05 g or 8.55 g had been fired. The results of this study indicate that the target area of shooting ranges must not be used for pasture or for food production for animals or humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-407
Number of pages5
JournalSchweizer Archiv fur Tierheilkunde
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Cattle
  • Lead poisoning
  • Shooting range

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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