Cows' killer likely to be urea

Water contaminated with urea is thought to have poisoned 122 cows on an Oeo farm.
Water contaminated with urea is thought to have poisoned 122 cows on an Oeo farm.

Water contaminated with urea is thought to have poisoned 122 cows on a South Taranaki dairy farm last week.

Chris and Catherine Cook's cows dropped dead one by one last Tuesday on their Oeo Rd farm as they were topping up water troughs.

The Ministry of Primary Industries is still investigating the deaths and results are not expected until late next month or early February.

Eighteen cows are still recovering and unlikely to be milked again this season.

It appeared the cows suffered nitrogen poisoning after a 5000-litre urea container was used to top up the farm's water troughs, family spokesman John Murphy said.

The container was thoroughly washed that morning for use as a portable water tank on the farm trailer.

"Even though the container was heavily rinsed, the water was contaminated by urea which the plastic absorbed," he said.

Mr Murphy, who is Mrs Cook's brother, said the family was revealing the likely cause of the deaths because they wanted to stop speculation.

The couple were amazed by the community's generosity since news of the cows' deaths broke.

Delivery to the farm of 80 cows offered on loan or as a gift was still being arranged.

The couple had also had lots of offers of assistance to milk their 460 healthy cows.

Mr Murphy and his brother, James, had been helping the couple's staff on the farm since the disaster, but the couple were now back at work.

"They're picking up the pieces. The shell shock has gone but they're sad at losing all the animals. They feel they let the cows down - unwittingly. They were giving them water which is essential for life."

Mr Murphy said the deaths showed plastic containers should be used only for one item because it absorbed chemicals.

"As farmers, we routinely use containers for multiple uses - but not any more."

Taranaki Daily News