Bloat – Had a gutsful yet?

It’s a costly problem for our dairy farmers. And we may not be treating it right.

You’re checking the herd one morning and all looks good….. except for one cow off to the side. She may be constantly kicking her belly and have a horribly distended left flack – obvious tell-tale signs of bloat. ‘Bugger’, you think to yourself. If a healthy herd starts inside, it’s certainly not starting that way today.  

Bloat is a common and exceedingly costly problem for New Zealand’s dairy farmers, affecting around 1-2% of cows nationwide. That might seem a manageable amount, but the financial implications of losing a single cow including the associated loss of production quickly takes a toll. $4,500, in fact. Multiply that across every herd in the country and you can see the scale of the problem.  

The challenge with bloat is that while you might have a fair idea when it could happen, you never quite know. Cows don’t always drink regularly, and very little on wet days. Most bloat treatments in NZ are administered through stock drinking water, however once cows stop drinking they’re particularly vulnerable to a bloat challenge, which could come on fast. To combat the problem, farmers have resorted to a myriad of treatments, some more reactive in nature such as stomach tubes, trocars, and knives and some more proactive, the most popular being bloat oil. Historically seen as the most cost-effective option for controlling pasture bloat, the challenge with bloat oils is that they’re short-lived in the rumen (which begs the question how cost effective they really are) and second, bloat oils have no added benefits. 

It’s for this reason that the science of bloat protection is now focusing less on short term treatments like bloat oils and more towards treatments that get in front of the problem before it becomes one. After all, if you can prevent excess gas production in the rumen, you’re more likely to not need bloat oils in the first place. 

One product gaining wide acceptance amongst vets and feed suppliers is Rumenox®, a water-soluble additive that adjusts fermentation levels in the rumen. This results in a reduction in gas, decreasing the risk of bloat far longer than bloat oil. And unlike bloat oils, Rumenox® has a single dose rate regardless of the bloat challenge at the time, eliminating the need to adjust rates according to the risk.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Rumenox® and bloat oils lies in its added benefits. Because Rumenox® actively manages rumen function, adjusting fermentation to a level that benefits the overall health of the cow, it not only provides effective bloat protection, but helps cows to stay in optimal condition. This reduces the risk of ketosis, supporting higher in-calf rates and increased milk protein production.

Rumenox® costs a little more than bloat oils but the price gap is closing. Given it out-performs bloat oils, especially in terms of how long it lasts, its slightly higher price tag is arguably justified given the peace of mind protection. To learn more about Rumenox® or where to buy it, click here.