Cattle's stomachs have two compartments. One is the rumen and the other one is the reticulum. Bloat is a digestive disorder in which gas is accumulated in the compartments. Foam sometimes forms when livestock consume highly digestible legumes such as alfalfa. The build up of gas causes discomfort to the animal. The lining of inside walls may get extended due to pressure. This can lead to severe breathing problems and even heart failure. Under normal circumstances the gases are expelled by belching. In the case of bloat, the gases are sometimes stuck under layers of foam. This causes difficulty whenever the animal wants to eliminate air.
Bloat is also known by the name of Pasture bloat. It occurs as a result of feeding on wheat pasture and other highly digestible legumes. Scientists have found that some plants have natural foaming agents in them. When an animal consumes it, the foaming agent can automatically produce an abundance of foam inside.
Bloat is not caused by any microorganism. It occurs as a result of feeding on any forage that is low in fiber and high in protein.
- Swelling of the left side of the animal
- The affected cattle show their discomfort by stamping of feet
- Alternatively they can also kick their belly
- Cattle usually also experience difficult breathing
- Frequent urination and defecation
- In advanced cases, cattle have been known to collapse almost completely.
How it Affects Cattle
In bloat, the stomach of the cattle swells up. This creates a large bulge in the stomach. Pressure builds up behind the rib-cage. The cattle soon stop eating and continue to show their discomfort. As the gas builds up more pressure, the cattle sometimes produce a lot of saliva. The difficulty in breathing will lead to a bluish tinge to the skin inside the mouth. Convulsions may occur quickly and heart-failure is a possibility. In some cases, bloat affected cattle have died within 30 minutes after consuming clover-rich forage.
Cases of bloat are found more often in the spring season. Younger cattle are often more affected than older cattle. The areas in which cattle feed on grasses and hay have reported the lowest number of bloat affected cases
Risks & Dangers
Losing cattle to bloat, especially the milk-yielding cows, is a real concern. Many farmers have suffered losses because they were late in realizing this condition was affecting their herd. The animals are at a higher risk when frost or dew is present in the pastures.
During bloat, dry hay should be offered to all the cattle. Making affected cattle walk also causes movements in the stomach, which might reduce discomfort. Anti-foaming agents or anti-bloat gives excellent results. All of treatment should be given under the guidance of a veterinarian.
Vaccines & Prevention
Since bloat is not caused by any microbe, there is no vaccine for prevention. The best way to avoid bloat is to reduce the factors that can cause it. Anti-foaming agents can be sprayed onto suspected pasture before your cattle graze on it. Anti-bloat capsules which stay in the stomach for up to 100 days are now available. This can give long-term protection to your cattle from bloat.
References and Resources