Q In a recent column, you mentioned something about health problems developing as a result of cattle ingesting plastic twine. Can you give me more information on this?

Ed Yedlicka

Fromberg, MT

A Most plastic is inert and relatively non-toxic. Technically, however, in order to allow a plastic material in a feed it must be FDA approved for use in feeds. Even plastics that touch food or feeds (feed sack liners, bread wrappers, etc.) must be from FDA-approved material.

Aside from the legal issue, however, I always recommend that my clients remove the twine before grinding. The reason is the potential for impaction.

Because the twine is inert and indigestible, any strands left by the grinder hold the potential for binding together and creating intestinal blockage. An alert cowboy can usually spot an impacted animal, but accurate diagnosis and treatment is expensive. That is, for diagnosis a veterinarian would have to X-ray the animal and then surgically remove the balled-up twine.

A Parting Note It is with great melancholy that I must mention that this will be my last article for BEEF magazine.

The political and perception problems we face as an industry, as well as rural Americans, are far greater than technical/nutrition problems. Therefore, what little time I have available for writing will be redirected in an attempt to become a syndicated newspaper columnist.

As it is today, on the editorial page no one is representing rural, or even middle America. Most columnists are professional journalists based in East or West Coast big cities. Someone needs to represent those of us who are in the crosshairs of such issues as environmentalism, government regulation and consumer activism.

With your help, I think we can do it. If you would be willing to help place an editorial in your hometown newspaper, please write, call or e-mail. The first article to be run will be "Ranchers, Real-Life Environmentalists," a discussion of how ranchers have greatly expanded wildlife populations through water development.

David Price, PhD, is a consulting nutritionist specializing in range and feedlot cattle. He can be reached at 5804 Leasburg Dr., Las Cruces, NM 88005; phone: 505/525-1370; fax: 505/525-1394. His e-mail address is nutconsult@zianet.com.