The thought of cattle grazing lush pastures is nice. But if there’s high legume content, bloat can quickly squash that idyllic image, causing significant issues for the health of your herd. The risk of bloat needs to be monitored most carefully by southern graziers when Spring begins, but suffice it to say we could all benefit from understanding how to manage bloat in cattle.
Learn about the causes, symptoms and treatments of cattle bloat to ensure your herd is hearty.
A ruminant’s digestion process produces significant quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) from the fermentation of feedstuff. These gases usually escape through belching, but bloat can occur when an accumulation of these gases gets trapped in the rumen in excess.
Some legumes have naturally occurring foaming agents that can trap gas in the rumen, preventing the normal process of burping. This trapped gas causes a build-up of pressure, which can cause problems as severe as heart or lung failure, causing death.
Bloat predominantly occurs in early Spring when livestock is exposed to lush, rapidly growing pastures with a high content of legumes such as clover, lucerne and medics. In high-risk pastures, death rates can be as high as 20%. It is a significant problem for the industry due to mortalities and loss of production—despite bloat being largely preventable.
As with most livestock conditions, prevention is the key! With a few simple changes to how you manage your paddock, bloat can be beaten—and replaced by belching. We suggest you:
Once your prevention strategies are in place, you must understand the symptoms of livestock bloat, so you know what to look for. Like health conditions in humans and other animals, quick detection and rapid response will be essential if bloat occurs. Symptoms of livestock bloat include:
If you find your cattle are suffering from bloat, there are ways to manage it. We suggest:
The Merck Veterinary Manual Bloat in Ruminants
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