Bloat can quickly lead to death in livestock

Now that spring is in full swing, producers will want to keep a close eye on their herds in case of bloat. Fresh spring grass has been known to cause this problem, so here is what to look for and how to treat it!

What is Bloat?

In order to prevent and treat bloat, it is helpful to fully understand what it is.

According to Purdue University, bloat is a digestive disorder characterized by an accumulation of gas in the first two compartments of a ruminant’s stomach (the rumen and reticulum). Production of gas (primarily carbon dioxide and methane) is a normal result of rumen fermentation. These gases are usually discharged by belching (eructation) but, if the animal’s ability to release these gases is impaired, pressure builds in the reticulum and rumen and bloat occurs.” If left untreated, bloat can quickly lead to death from suffocation.

Signs of Bloat: The clinical signs of bloat can be easily identified: anxiety, rapid breathing, tongue out and a large protrusion of the rumen.

“You can usually see this as swelling on the left side of the animal. If you tap firmly on the swelling, it will sound like a drum,” said Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. While the most common type of bloat is pasture bloat, abomasum bloat can be seen in young bottle-fed livestock. Animals grind their teeth and salivate, appear depressed and refuse to eat. The abomasum swells, and “tinkling” or splashing can be heard if the animal is shaken.

Treating and Preventing Bloat: If producers find an animal with bloat, immediate action must be taken to save its life.

Reducing the foam buildup from the animal’s inability to pass gas is key. Dosing the animal with mineral oil or vegetable oil will reduce the surface tension of the foam, as will liquid dishwashing soap, Fernandez said.

“Bloat can be prevented by including ionophores, such as lasalocid or monensin, to the diet,” said Carol Sanders, with the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff School of Agriculture. “Be sure to check the label for approved uses and species.”

Another way to prevent bloat is to feed hay.

Eldon Cole, livestock field specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, suggested cattle producers always “fill the cattle up before turning them in on lush, damp pastures.”

“Many farmers routinely fill them up with hay and keep dry hay available while they’re on the bloat-prone pastures,” Cole said.

Another commonly heard of bloat preventive is baking soda – while there is not a lot of evidence that this prevents bloat, many producers say it seems to help, and it is an inexpensive thing to try.

Consult with a veterinarian to determine bloat prevention and treatment options.


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