"Cattle Mutilations" -- Severe Lactic Acidosis?

copyright 2003 Kevin Sterns

The “cattle mutilation” phenomenon has proved a puzzling mystery over the past several decades. Official answers cite predators or decomposition; but these explanations do not match the evidence. Alternatively, popular explanations invoke UFOs or satanic cults. My own hypothesis might lack drama, but it does fit all the facts.

Several factors characterize so-called "Cattle Mutilations". I'll list these, then see which can be explained as an extreme case of lactic acidosis.

Common features of "Cattle Mutilations"

1) A cow turns up dead with missing tissues / organs.

2) The dead cow is always missing the same or similar parts of its body -- lips, tongue, anus, genitals, ears, and often specific internal organs, such as the lower intestine. All missing tissues are either in close proximity to the cow's digestive tract or are connected to it via internal “plumbing". For example, the cow's ears are connected to the esophagus via the Eustachian tubes.

3) The amount of missing tissue varies from case to case. Damage to various parts of the cow appears to be scaled proportionally -- for instance, if a cow is missing a lot of skin around its anus, then it is likely to be missing a lot of skin around its mouth, etcetera.

4) Although the cow is missing plenty of skin and internal organs, no blood is found near the carcass.

5) The edges of the wounds are perfectly smooth and gently curved, sometimes showing a serrated pattern. There are no cut marks or teeth marks, though investigators always look for these signs.

6) Often, investigators remark that the wounds appear to have been chemically burned. Laboratory testing has confirmed that tissues have been subjected to high temperatures.

7) There are no signs of decomposition. In some cases the cow was seen alive less than a day before it was found dead.

8) There are no animal, human or vehicle tracks around the cow. There are no signs of a struggle. Investigators have been so far unable to find conclusive signs that sedatives were used on the cow.

What is Lactic Acidosis?

Lactic Acidosis is a well-studied phenomenon, and numerous links can be found on the internet. Here is a quote from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/1997/970328.htm

“When cattle switch from a high-forage diet to a grain-rich finishing ration, millions of S. bovis in the cattle’s rumen--a stomach compartment--gobble up more glucose from the grain than they need and, in turn, spew out an abundance of lactic acid. The animals can develop lactic acidosis--a giant stomachache.

Sometimes life-threatening, lactic acidosis inhibits animals’ weight gain and can lead to liver abscesses and other abnormalities. The result: Losses of up to $100 million annually for the U.S. cattle feeding industry.”

And from http://www.westerndairyscience.com/html/ADM%20articles/html/Acidosis.html

“Rumen acidosis is the number one metabolic disorder diagnosed by the University of Wisconsin Veterinary College. Two types of acidosis are reported in the field: acute and subacute. Acute acidosis is less common but more severe. Affected animals are depressed, off-feed, have an elevated heart rate, diarrhea and may die.”

Lactic Acidosis is an affliction usually associated with feedlot cows. But it can strike any cow that experiences certain types of sudden change in diet. A cow suffering from severe Lactic Acidosis is often very hungry and gorges itself. The more the cow eats, the more fuel is available for fermentation. In severe cases, so much acid is produced that it kills the cow.

Point by Point: “Cattle Mutilations as Lactic Acidosis”

1) "A cow turns up dead...."

-- As quoted above, lactic acidosis is known to kill cattle. The missing tissues and organs are burned off by the runaway production of acid by bacteria within the cow's rumen.

2) "The dead cow is always missing the same or similar parts...."

-- The acid travels through the cow via diarrhea and vomiting. As acid washes over various tissues, it gradually burns them down. ALL of the lost tissues are located such that they would be subject to acid burns from diarrhea and vomiting.

3) "The amount of missing tissue varies..."

-- The amount of acid produced would be directly proportional to the severity of the acidosis, which varies.

4) "...no blood is found near the carcass."

-- The burning effects of the acid would cauterize the wounds.

5) "The edges of the wounds are perfectly smooth and gently curved, sometimes showing a serrated pattern..."

-- Acid burns do not leave knife marks. Because acid is a fluid, it produces wounds with perfectly smooth edges. A serrated pattern occurs because the acid is not all released simultaneously. Rather it is vomited up (or expelled as diarrhea) in successive waves, causing serrated wound marks.

6) "...tissues have been subjected to high temperatures."

-- When acid reacts with a material, the ensuing chemical reaction produces heat as a byproduct. That's why injuries from acid are referred to as "burns".

7) "There are no signs of decomposition..."

-- The cow's tissues were burned by acid. There is no need to credit predators, parasites or bacteria to account for the missing tissues.

8) "There are no animal, human or vehicle tracks around the cow...."

-- The cow died on its own because it ate the right type of food at the wrong time.


ALL aspects of so-called Cattle Mutilation can be explained as severe Lactic Acidosis. People are thrown off track by the unusual severity of the symptoms. Because the dead cow has missing parts, investigators understandably assume that those parts were cut off. This becomes the premise for investigations that unfortunately are doomed by definition.

Lactic Acidosis is typically associated with feedlot cattle, not range cattle. From http://vetgate.ac.uk/browse/cabi/detail/b47fbd8545c1dcbc2bf9394c0c78aca2.html

“Most feedlot managers readily recognize the effects of acute acidosis. Many cattle diagnosed as "sudden death" may have died from acute acidosis. “

Thus range cattle with the affliction are more likely to be misdiagnosed. In extreme cases, the cows are thought to be mutilated.