Although you may be new to raising cows, you probably know that the quality and quantity of milk or beef your cows produce is partly affected by their diet. Another reason to keep a close watch on what your cows eat, however, is to prevent a potentially fatal condition called bloat. Here are two tips for ensuring your cows get the nutrients they need while minimizing the risk they'll develop bloat.
Prevent Overconsumption of Legumes
Bloat is often caused by cows eating too much pasture legumes at one time, particularly if their body is not accustomed to processing this type of food. Legumes have a lot of protein and carbohydrates, both of which are digested quickly and cause microbes to bloom in the cow's stomach. If this happens too fast, slime will fill the cow's belly that will trap the gas produced by the digestive process, resulting in something called frothy bloat. If the bloat isn't treated quickly, it can cause the cow to suffocate and die due to the pressure the gas puts on the animal's lungs.
Legumes can be a great source or nutrition for cows. However, it's essential you introduce them to your herd gradually. If your cows graze in a pasture, you can prevent them from eating too many legumes in the wild by feeding them silage, hay, or similar type of feed before letting them out into the fields. Restricting the amount of time they spend grazing can also reduce the volume of legumes they eat overall.
If your cows are feedlot, only add small amounts of legumes when first starting to feed your cows and gradually increase the ratio as your cows get used to processing it. However, legumes shouldn't make up more than 15 percent of the cow's diet.
Ensure the Cow Gets Plenty of Roughage
Cows are like humans in that they need plenty of roughage for a healthy digestive system. The fiber in the roughage prevents legumes from being digested too fast as well as help stimulate the cows' stomachs to stir up whatever is in there. The agitation can cause trapped gas to be released, which can both prevent and alleviate bloat.
There are a number of plants that will fill this role, such as silage, straw, and grass. While you should pay attention to the nutrient content of each and choose the one that best fits your cows' needs, it's critical the roughage is not too small. The plants matter should be at least 3/8 to 1-1/2 inches long. Roughage that's too small will be digested too quickly, which defeats the purpose of including it in your cows' diet.
For more tips on preventing bloat or advice on healthy cattle feed, contact a local supplier.