Not many things scare cattle farmers more than BLOAT. It comes on quickly when cattles and small ruminants go to new, lush legume pastures, especially during the rainy season. Perfectly healthy animals can fill up with (bloat) gas quickly and eventually go down or even die within hours. Infact, some cattle farmers intentionally eliminate legumes from pastures just to avoid the potential of bloat.
3 degrees of bloat – mild, moderate, severe
Here are seven tips to avoid bloat – most of the time.
1. Know the cause
Bloat happens when animals graze lush, high-protein legumes, and a protein film forms in the rumen. The film traps air bubbles into a stable foam. As the foam builds and traps more bubbles, the rumen expands into visible bloating on the left side of the animal. Unrelieved, or if the foamy gas is not let out, it can cut off the animal’s ability to breathe leading to the death of the animal.
The most notorious plants that cause bloat in cattle are the leguminous plants Alfalfa (red clover, and white clover). Also, green feed that has grown warm in the stack can also create bloat.
2. Select against it
Some individual animals have a propensity to bloat due to genetics, perhaps because of their physical characteristics. It is advisable to cull such repeat bloaters and their offspring.
3. Get the mix right
Legumes are desirable in most pastures because they are high in protein, producing more milk and faster gains. However, don’t over-feed your cattle and small ruminants with legumes. You can mix with normal dry grass.
4. Fill them up first
If you know you are going to graze pastures with potential bloat risk, don’t put the cattle out when they are really hungry. You could fill them up on some dry roughage before letting them out on the leguminous pastures. For example, give them hay – as hay prevents over-consumption of legumes and lessens the abrupt shock of high-protein legumes in the rumen.
5. Move your animals to pasture in the afternoon/evening
Cattle turned out into high-legume pastures in the morning when the dew is heavy or after a rain are at more risk of bloat. But when the dew is dried off, which usually happens the the afternoon and evening, it is much safer for the cattle to eat such leguminous pastures.
6. Make a gradual intro
It may be best to gradually introduce the animals to heavy legume pastures in short bursts over a course of days. Their rumens should adjust after a few days of close management. Also, give them plenty of dry roughage before the final turnout and observe them closely for a few days.
7. Use the right treatment
The are mild medications that are approved to be fed to cattle for management of bloat. The medications would work by breaking down the surface tension of the protein foam in the rumen and prevents the gas from getting trapped or dispering the foam. They include polaxolene, linseed oil or turpentine. In other cases, you can use a stomach tube to release the gas; or a trochar and cannula. However, be sure to check with your veterinarian to be sure of what medication or procedure is best to use and in what dosage