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The Moo News

Newsletter of Penn Dutch Cow Care                                                        May 2002

Hi Folks,

            ** Please remember that we are in Daylight Savings Time now and calls for routine-type service work should be made by 8:00 AM ‘Fast-Time’. Thanks! **


            The month ahead will probably provide ample opportunities for bloat. Frothy bloat is what happens to cows grazing lush alfalfa and clover stands for a few days in a row, especially when dew or frost is present. The best way to prevent this is to feed dry hay a half-hour before sending the cows out. Also, allow any dew or frost to evaporate. This kind of bloat will usually effect a bunch of cows at once. It can easily kill an animal because the zillions of tiny bubbles (suds) are rapidly being produced and expanding the rumen beyond its capacity, choking off the animal’s airway due to internal pressures. Rapid action is required on your part. Give one quart of either vegetable oil or mineral oil orally and walk the animal around. Repeat in 5-10 minutes if no better. You can add one teaspoon of peppermint oil into the vegetable/mineral oil to give it flavor so the animal doesn’t inhale the liquid into the windpipe. Peppermint has also been shown to help reduce gas in the digestive tract. Also, Bloat-Gard and Thera-Bloat are specific anti-bloat treatments. Thera-Bloat (the active ingredient is poloxalene) is OK for you certified organic farmers. It is extremely effective. Also, Tide™ Liquid Detergent is effective. All farmers should have a bloat treatment on hand always.

             The other kind of bloat, free-gas bloat, occurs in a single animal (not a whole bunch) and is due to failure to eructate (burp and belch). Usually it is an after-effect of hardware. An animal may bloat on and off for a few days. This condition is a large gas cap in the upper part of the rumen. Giving one quart to one half-gallon of either vegetable oil or mineral oil with one teaspoon of peppermint oil and moving the cow around is usually effective. In addition, giving 6 tablespoons of baking soda (bicarb) in water is good. A calcium bottle IV will also help get the rumen moving.

            For either kind of bloat, if the above measures don’t work, the old and crude method of stabbing the rumen of the cow with a clean, sharp knife (at least 4 inches long) can help. You make the stab just below the short ribs and just behind the last large rib – where the rumen is most bulged out. The cow’s rumen is on the left side. When standing behind a cow, her left is your left. This emergency treatment is not to be the first method tried, as a severe infection can set in afterwards – but if it saves the life of your animal, that is the primary concern at the moment. The stab is a quick thrust to penetrate the skin, the muscles, and then the rumen. Once in, keep the knife there and turn it 90 degrees and hold it there while the gas or suds are released.

            Remember – bloat due to legume pasture is entirely preventable by feeding dry hay a half-hour before sending the cows out.

            Calves and heifers occasionally experience bloat – 99% of the time, it is the free-gas type. Causes are usually obscure (unknown). For calves not yet weaned, it is usually due to poor quality milk replacer or too much milk at one feeding or some other milk replacer problem. By passing a tube or hose (small diameter) down its throat, the free gas can often be released. Have someone push around on the rumen while you have the tube passed. Once the bloat seems to be relieved, put one pint to one quart of vegetable oil or mineral oil down the tube.

            If you use homeopathic remedies, Carbo Veg is a good remedy for an animal with free gas bloat, that is cold and near collapse. Colocynthus is a remedy for colic (perhaps due to gas) when an animal looks back to its flank on the bloated side. Colchicum can be helpful more so with legume pasture bloat when the weather is cool and there has been dew or frost. If the bloat is very mild, using these remedies every 15-30 minutes may be effective on their own. But if the bloat is very serious, you will also need to do the other tips mentioned.

Peppermint oil has been shown clinically and repeatedly to be a good carminitive (helps move gas along in the digestive tract). Please keep it on hand. It has been helpful with horse colics if due to free gas.

For Bovinity Health, information on functional alternatives to antibiotics see:

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