Sulfur-associated polioencephalomalacia in cattle grazing plants in the Family Brassicaceae.
Polioencephalomalacia was diagnosed histologically in cattle from two herds on the Darling Downs, Queensland, during July-August 2007. In the first incident, 8 of 20 18-month-old Aberdeen Angus steers died while grazing pastures comprising 60% Sisymbrium irio (London rocket) and 40% Capsella bursapastoris (shepherd's purse). In the second incident, 2 of 150 mixed-breed adult cattle died, and another was successfully treated with thiamine, while grazing a pasture comprising almost 100% Raphanus raphanistrum (wild radish). Affected cattle were either found dead or comatose or were seen apparently blind and head-pressing in some cases. For both incidents, plant and water assays were used to calculate the total dietary sulfur content in dry matter as 0.62% and 1.01% respectively, both exceeding the recommended 0.5% for cattle eating more than 40% forage. Blood and tissue assays for lead were negative in both cases. No access to thiaminase, concentrated sodium ion or extrinsic hydrogen sulfide sources were identified in either incident. Below-median late summer and autumn rainfall followed by above-median unseasonal winter rainfall promoted weed growth at the expense of wholesome pasture species before these incidents.