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Acidosis and Rumen Health

With the calving season quickly approaching, it is necessary to pay close attention to the diet of cows prior to calving and ensure that the diet is of high quality in order to avoid a poor rumen environment.

As we now approach calving season, it is very important that the diet of the pre-calving cow remains at a very high quality to avoid a poor rumen environment. A poor rumen environment will be detrimental to the nutrient absorption and energy metabolism of feed and forage offered. This will have serious implications for milk yield, milk constituents and subsequent reproductive performance.

The most common metabolic disorder resulting from a poor rumen environment is Sub Acute Rumen Acidosis (SARA) of which can affect cattle and sheep. The pH level in the rumen decreases very rapidly below 5 to 6 of which supports lactic-acid producing bacteria leading to a depression in appetite and milk production. A surge in acid production in the rumen will allow penetration through the rumen wall, eventually leading to the passage of endotoxins into the blood, increasing the likelihood of inflammation. The rumen lining will be damaged depending on the extent of infection on the rumen wall. Inflammation occurs in the abomasum which may destroy the villi that are responsible for nutrient absorption from the rumen wall. This will also suppress the immune system, and liver abscesses are common leading to reduced feed intake, feed efficiency, weight gain and carcass yield.

New Born CalfThe three main causes of ruminal acidosis are; excessive intake of rapidly fermentable carbohydrates such as barley or other cereals, inadequate buffering capacity and inadequate ruminal adaption to a highly fermentable diet. There are two types of acidosis: acute and sub-acute. Acute acidosis is a more serious condition which can cause death where cattle have obtained access to excess feed. Sub-acute ruminal acidosis is not as a severe as clinical acidosis, but the consequences are still significant and can include laminitis, infertility, depressed intake, drop in rumen pH and low butterfat.

Thereby feed management and nutrition will help mitigate the risks on each farm and a plan must be created and tailored to ensure a smooth transition from pre-calving to post-calving diets. There must be sufficient physical effective fibre in the diet to promote slower consumption of feed and assist ruminal digestion. The fibre size and content will not only influence cow nutrient intake, but also the rate of fermentation. Feed additives such as live yeast and buffers such as sodium bicarbonate etc. will help prepare the rumen for a better transition but should only be used as a preventative strategy.

All dairy feeds supplied by Connolly’s RED MILLS are balanced correctly to help prevent ruminal acidosis with significant emphasis on digestible fibre. Please consult myself, one of the Connolly’s RED MILLS nutrition team or call into our Agri Super Store in Cillin Hill for any further information.

  • Tags:
  • Agri
  • animal health
  • animal nutrition
  • Body Condition Scoring
  • cows
  • dairy
  • dry matter
  • feed
  • feeding programme
  • grazing
  • heifers
  • silage
  • transition period
  • winter feed