Unusual Bloat Year


   I’ve heard of an unusual number of cattle dying from bloat this spring. Most of the time the cattle were on a fescue pasture with an exceptional amount of white clover in it. Estimates were 50 to 70 percent clover in the pasture. I asked several if it was ladino clover or just the common white Dutch clover. No one thought it was anything they had seeded so it should be white Dutch.
   Common white clover has seldom been viewed as a serious bloat concern. Ladino, alfalfa and red clover are more often the legumes I worry about under certain grazing situations. Interestingly this year didn’t seem to be a high-risk year due to the dry spring we’ve had.
   In fact, bloat seems to have become a non-concern. One feed dealer said he’d sold more bloat blocks in the last week than he had in the last 10 years. Bloat blocks work if consumed in recommended amounts. They aren’t cheap so most farmers will take a chance and use other methods to reduce risk. Those include not turning in on lush clover until the cattle are fed dry hay and the dew is off. They also keep dry grass hay available at all times. Some cattle are more genetically inclined to bloat.
   They watch their cattle closely for symptoms of bloat which is noted as being extremely “aired-up” on their left side just in front of their hip bone. Cattle show signs of stress and discomfort as they can’t belch away the gas entrapped in their rumen. Prompt treatment can save the affected animal. We’ve all heard stories of how a cow was saved by sticking them with a knife to release the gas before they died.
   As a young person I vividly remember my first encounter with legume bloat on our family milk cow, Blackie. She came waddling in from the clover field and collapsed and died right there in front of me while Dad franticly tried to “knife her” to no avail. Sorry to end the letter on a sad note. ∆
   ELDON COLE: Extension Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri

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