Preventing and Managing Bloat in Cows

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Bloat can be dangerous. If not treated in time it can kill your cow…

bloat 1

Bloat is a serious condition that can kill cows within hours

Bloat happens due to an accumulation of gas in the rumen of the cow (fore stomach). If the bloat gets very bad then the rumen will push up against the lungs of the animal and stop it from breathing. Once this happens the cow will collapse and die.

It is important to monitor your cows for bloat as it can kill within a few hours of first showing signs.

Source: ILRI

It is important for farmers to understand there are two main types of bloat to look out for…

There are two main types of bloat in cows

Frothy bloat is caused by cows eating lots of wet, green pasture or lots of high quality forages such (e.g. young green cereals, canola, kale, peas, beans etc.)

Gassy bloat can be caused by the food pipe being blocked so the cow cannot belch, certain types of diseases such as tetanus, large amounts of grain or irregular feeding

Source: ILRI

Top Q&A from AFC members

This is an issue that has affected our members. Those affected, like Jairus, ask for expert advise on how to handle this problem…

Jairus’s Question

With the comeback of the rains fresh grasses and other edible plants brought about bloat …what a loss,please advice the best mechanism to prevent the same in future

Posted by: Jairus B

We have nominated 2 top answers from Halbe and Moses…

Halbe’s Answer

In Holland we seldom have bloat. And I am still puzzling why farmers in Kenya have bloat. Discussed this subject with my vet and we concluded that the reason is, that cows overeat themselves in a very short time.

Dutch cows do not do that, because they are fed 24/7. So when they go out for grazing after miliking in fresh wet grass, they will not overeat themselves, because they also got that grass in the stable during the night and even during the night they eat a complete load of grass ( 2600 kg grass with 18% dm for 80 adult cows) If not fresh grass during they night they get a load of maize silage, or grass silage, or a mixture, but they are always able to eat as much as they want during the evening and night.

Posted by: Halbe K

Moses’ Answer

A simple way is to avoid giving fresh grass or fodder .. let the food weather 4 a day or so before feeding .. if it’s open grazing dnt take your cows to the field early morning wait untill the dew has dried .. avoid also wet legumes

Posted by: Moses K

Since bloat is important to recognise early, read some more expert tips below on how to identify the stages of bloat…

The stages of bloat in cows

  1. Mild bloat - a swelling on the left side behind the rib cage

  2. Moderate bloat - a larger swelling and cow is uncomfortable

  3. Severe bloat - cow has difficulty breathing, sometimes green froth comes out of the mouth or there is mild diarrhoea.

  4. The animal will collapse and lie on its side with its head stretched out

Source: IRLI + AFC

Top Q&A from AFC members

It’s useful to read up on Q&A from other farmers who have asked vets for advice on this issue…

Caroh’s Question

My 8 month calf has a bloated stomach and very restless. My doc can’t be reached he is in church. Need ur help.

Posted by: Caroh K

A top answer we’ve selected comes from McAduwa…

McAduwa’s Answer

  • 1.Give the animal antibloat (Stop Bloat) orally

  • 2.Give Epsom salt (Magnesium sulphate)

  • 3.Excercise the animal (move the animal along) Using Troca and Canula is the last option.

    Posted by: McAduwa G

It is good to be prepared in case of issues…

AFC opinion

It’s a good idea to have an emergency kit ready in case of bloat as cows can die within 1-4 hours of first showing signs. The emergency kit should contain antibloat medicine and a trocar and cannula. You should be able to get these from your local agrovet.

Posted by: AFC

Expert opinion

Treating with a Trocar and Cannula

When the bloat is very severe, cows are treated by puncturing the rumen and allowing the gas to escape. It is always better to call a trained vet and get them to do this for you. If you cannot find a vet quickly enough, it may be necessary to do this yourself.

Use a trocar and cannula to puncture the skin where the swelling is located (see diagram above). If you don't have a trocar and cannula then you can use another sterilised sharp object such as a nail, needle or knife.

Push hard at the distended abdomen to let the gas out. It is advisable to put a tube into the hole to keep it open. When the tube is removed, the hole should close on its own.

Source: ILRI

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