Bloat is a build-up of digestive gas in the rumen that can have serious consequences for dairy cattle. But steps can be taken to control and prevent bloat, and to enhance the total performance of your herd.
Bloat is a very rapid build-up of digestive gas in the rumen (the largest of the 4 stomachs in cattle). Under normal circumstances cattle belch up surplus gas as they chew their "cud". The Cud is the regurgitated grass/clover from their rumen. It is a normal process for cattle to re-chew this as part of their digestive process.
Clover has high levels of “foaming agents", which assist rumen gas to form numerous small gas bubbles in the rumen as the digestion occurs. These small gas bubbles make it very difficult for the animal to belch up the gas, so it just continues to build up in the rumen. As this process continues the rumen expands, which puts pressure on the lungs. This makes breathing difficult and if left untreated can eventually cause death by asphyxiation and heart failure.
Bloat is a common problem in the spring when plant growth peaks, however bloat can be a problem at other times of the year during high grass growth periods.
There are a number of treatments available. Farmers can drench cattle directly or dose surfactant type products through the water system. Providing each cow receives the required dose these products provide effective control. These products are costly and have no added advantages other than controlling the bloat.
More recently Monensin in its various forms has been used with some success to control bloat. It is effective at modifying the types of bacteria that are most prevalent in the rumen, by promoting the type of rumen bacteria that do not produce rumen gas. As well as controlling bloat these Monensin based products can also deliver significant production gains by optimising rumen function