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Don’t Lose Animals to Bloat This Year!

By Terry Kowalchuk MSc. PAg, Provincial Specialist, Forage Crops

May 2020

Alfalfa growing in a pasture.
Alfalfa growing in a pasture.
Every year, some cattle are lost due to bloat from grazing alfalfa in pastures. These losses can be avoided through forage and livestock management and the use of feed additives.

Forage/Feed Management

  • Remember that AC Grazeland alfalfa, a reduced-bloat alfalfa, blends well with meadow bromegrass for grazing.
  • Include grass and/or non-bloat legumes like cicer milkvetch or sainfoin in the stand.
  • When seeding a stand, aim for 50 per cent grass in the stand and seed alfalfa-grass in the same row.
  • Delay grazing until alfalfa is flowering.
  • Have dry hay available to the animals on pasture.
  • If pasture gets ahead of the cattle, cut and strip graze windrows.
  • In the event of a bloat event, move cattle to a safe pasture with a high proportion of grass.
  • Ensure that water and salt is readily available to the animals.

Livestock Management

  • Do not turn out hungry animals onto pasture containing alfalfa.
  • Move cattle at mid-day to avoid morning dew.
  • Closely monitor cattle for three days after entering a new pasture.
  • If possible, use high stock density to consume stems and leaves together.
  • To avoid grazing new re-growth, do not allow your animals to stay in a paddock for more than eight days.
  • Be aware that mature cows have fewer bloat problems than younger animals.

Feed/Water Additives

Over the past 20 years, a broad range of feed and water additives have been developed to help prevent bloat. Prophylactic bloat treatments are available as ionophores, like Rumensin or Bovatec, both of which contain monensin. These treatments alter the rumen's fermentation, reducing overall gas production. Ensuring adequate consumption of these treatments on a daily basis is a concern. Bloat Guard (containing polaxalene) can also be fed.

Consult a livestock and feed specialist to determine the best product for your operation.

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