The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Livestock => Sheep => Topic started by: Fleecewife on April 13, 2016, 01:29:59 pm

Title: What causes bloat?
Post by: Fleecewife on April 13, 2016, 01:29:59 pm

There are currently quite a few questions on TAS about bloat in lambs.  It's not something I have ever seen in my flock, I'm delighted to say, but I am interested in why it happens.

Is it just in bottle fed lambs, in lambs born inside, in new lambs, or can it affect older animals too? 
Is it just ovines, or can caprines and bovines get it too?
How can it be prevented?
What are the symptoms and what is the definitive treatment?

 :sheep: :sheep: :sheep: :sheep: :sheep:
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: ladyK on April 13, 2016, 02:30:21 pm
Good question, I was wondering that too!  :thumbsup:

I had a strange case of acute bloat last year with my oldest 11year old Soay ewe, so it's not just lambs that can get affected.
Old Dill is always very greedy so when I found her off food one morning I had the vet out straight away because it got me worried, knowing her. Vet checked her over, found that everything was totally normal including rumen noises, and nothing they could find to treat. Only 4 hours later (!) I found her standing alone and hunched up at the very bottom of the field, with a badly blown up belly and seemingly ready to die. We hauled her up the field in a blanket (in driving rain) and back to the vets where she spend the night, having to have her belly pierced twice to relieve the gas, as it kept building up. She stabilised by the morning and I took her back home nursing her for a few days with hedge cuttings and doses of that oil/bicarb/yoghurt mix, just in case the bloat was going to come back.
She recovered and been fine ever since. The vet could not explain what it was or what might have caused it.
So I have no idea!  ::)
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: fsmnutter on April 13, 2016, 02:56:13 pm
True "bloat" is a condition of ruminant animals, common in barley fed fattening cattle, or those fed tubers such as potatoes and turnips. It is also possible in sheep and goats, again usually those on high concentrates, fattening lambs or kidding/lactating goats, or anyone that breaks into a feed store!
Either the rumen conditions change, allowing a foam to build and trap rumen gases (as in acidosis from too much grain or concentrates) or a physical blockage such as a potato stops belching and release of rumen gases.
Symptoms are being off food, sometimes dull and a very large tummy behind the ribs, more so on the left, which is taut and gas filled.
It can be fatal rapidly when the pressure of the rumen stops blood returning to the heart, post mortem can sometimes show this is the case.
Treatment requires getting the gas out, either by passing a stomach tube or putting a cannula in the animal's side. If mild, repeated treatment with bicarbonate of soda to dilute the excess acid, and vegetable oil to help break up the foam, can be successful. This is more likely to be helpful in small ruminants as cattle can produce such vast volumes of gas it is more likely to be fatal if not treated rapidly as above.

In young lambs (and other ruminant species) the rumen is not yet developed and so the gases produced are usually due to milk getting into the undeveloped rumen instead of the abomasum or true stomach. The true stomach is acidic, so the correct bacteria and conditions exist to digest milk. The rumen is not acidic, and at this age, does not have many digestion bacteria, so Lactobacilli feed on the milk and grow rapidly, as can other species like E. coli. These bacteria can produce gases, allow the milk to ferment and become like curds, blocking up the flow of intestinal content and onwards to faeces.
This will result in full, bloated tummies, but often with sloshing sounds if the animal is gently rattled, as in the name "watery belly" where the gas and liquids in the stomachs mix.
It is also commonly known as "bloat" in bottle lambs, or I believe "floppy kid syndrome" is similar, and is often due to kids or lambs guzzling excess bottle milk and overfilling the true stomach causing the situation above.
Treatment for this is antibiotics to kill E. coli in particular, rehydration fluids instead of milk for at least 24 hours, little and often as the stomachs is already full.
The best chance of recovery is if attention is paid to the gut transit element - warm water and washing up liquid can be given as an enema. The water will be absorbed to an extent, aiding with hydration, and the liquid and soap will help break down the sticky faeces, fermented milk and general sticky obstruction in the intestines.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Womble on April 13, 2016, 03:05:29 pm
A fantastic reply - thankyou so much for taking the time fsmnutter!  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: twizzel on April 13, 2016, 03:25:22 pm
Another cause is high sugar content in grass- had a lamb bloat last year at about 4 months old, been out at grass for 8 weeks, no creep fed for 4 weeks. One morning came in bloated- vet attributed it to high sugar content in grass and had treated a couple of other lambs that week with the same issue. She was fine thankfully.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: suziequeue on April 13, 2016, 03:29:05 pm
Thanks fsmnutter. Very informative. I am interested to know:

       A. How does the rumen mature
       B. Does milk bypass the immature rumen and go straight to the abomasum? and - if that is the case - how does this happen?

I understand that it is important to give drenches in a particular way so as to ? bypass the rumen. What technique needs to be adopted to ensure this happens?

Also - what predisposes to a change in rumen conditions apart from a sudden change in feed?

Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: fsmnutter on April 13, 2016, 03:57:39 pm
A. By feeding hay/straw/grass from a young age, nibbling little bits stimulates the rumen to develop.
B. Yes, there is a miraculous little thing called the rumeno-reticular groove which creates a little tube for the liquid to pour past the rumen. If you watch a natural suckling lamb/kid/calf, you will see the angle of the head and neck that creates the best position for this groove to function correctly, and salivation and the mental anticipation of feeding helps. If bottle feeding, trying to mimick this low neck high mouth position will help the milk go down "the right way". They will usually instinctively try to adopt this position on automatic or bucket feeders as they would on mum.

Drenches are normally given with the head up, so this is the same position, but my understanding is that the groove only functions as long as necessary until the rumen has developed so I'm not so sure you will be bypassing the rumen, but I'd be grateful if anyone else had information on this. I believe this position is mostly to make sure the drench gun is less likely to hit the back of the throat causing injury, and encourage swallowing of the drench by getting at the back of the tongue.

Illness causing lack of feeding, changes of the rumen conditions within the animal could predispose to bloat, or climatic conditions as described can affect sugars and palatability of grass, which can cause more foam build up or ingestion of long grasses can physically block gas escaping.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Jukes Mum on April 13, 2016, 04:12:53 pm
Fab info  :thumbsup:
Quote
[/This will result in full, bloated tummies, but often with sloshing sounds if the animal is gently rattled, as in the name "watery belly" where the gas and liquids in the stomachs mix.quote]
So is "watery belly" just another name for bloat in lambs?
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: fsmnutter on April 13, 2016, 04:16:13 pm
I believe "watery belly" to be a specific illness, characterised by some bacterial infection, some bloating, constipation/sticky faeces and lethargy and inappetance.
I personally would not call it bloat, although bloating is a recognisable symptom.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Jukes Mum on April 13, 2016, 04:16:40 pm
I see!
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Marches Farmer on April 13, 2016, 04:18:04 pm
We once had a very old ewe on very wet pasture die overnight from bloat and I wonder if a lot of water dilutes the "soup" in the rumen that helps digest grass. 
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: SallyintNorth on April 13, 2016, 04:45:15 pm
True "bloat" is a condition of ruminant animals, common in barley fed fattening cattle, or those fed tubers such as potatoes and turnips. It is also possible in sheep and goats, again usually those on high concentrates, fattening lambs or kidding/lactating goats, or anyone that breaks into a feed store!
Either the rumen conditions change, allowing a foam to build and trap rumen gases (as in acidosis from too much grain or concentrates) or a physical blockage such as a potato stops belching and release of rumen gases.
Symptoms are being off food, sometimes dull and a very large tummy behind the ribs, more so on the left, which is taut and gas filled.
It can be fatal rapidly when the pressure of the rumen stops blood returning to the heart, post mortem can sometimes show this is the case.
Treatment requires getting the gas out, either by passing a stomach tube or putting a cannula in the animal's side. If mild, repeated treatment with bicarbonate of soda to dilute the excess acid, and vegetable oil to help break up the foam, can be successful. This is more likely to be helpful in small ruminants as cattle can produce such vast volumes of gas it is more likely to be fatal if not treated rapidly as above.

In young lambs (and other ruminant species) the rumen is not yet developed and so the gases produced are usually due to milk getting into the undeveloped rumen instead of the abomasum or true stomach. The true stomach is acidic, so the correct bacteria and conditions exist to digest milk. The rumen is not acidic, and at this age, does not have many digestion bacteria, so Lactobacilli feed on the milk and grow rapidly, as can other species like E. coli. These bacteria can produce gases, allow the milk to ferment and become like curds, blocking up the flow of intestinal content and onwards to faeces.
This will result in full, bloated tummies, but often with sloshing sounds if the animal is gently rattled, as in the name "watery belly" where the gas and liquids in the stomachs mix.
It is also commonly known as "bloat" in bottle lambs, or I believe "floppy kid syndrome" is similar, and is often due to kids or lambs guzzling excess bottle milk and overfilling the true stomach causing the situation above.
Treatment for this is antibiotics to kill E. coli in particular, rehydration fluids instead of milk for at least 24 hours, little and often as the stomachs is already full.
The best chance of recovery is if attention is paid to the gut transit element - warm water and washing up liquid can be given as an enema. The water will be absorbed to an extent, aiding with hydration, and the liquid and soap will help break down the sticky faeces, fermented milk and general sticky obstruction in the intestines.

:bookmark:

Thanks fsmnutter  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Fleecewife on April 13, 2016, 05:23:42 pm
Thank you SO much fsmnutter - that is a brilliant reply, which took time and thought to write  :bouquet:. 

I think it will help a lot of people to have this reply in the permanent pink bit at the top of the sheep section (as there is in coffee lounge).   Is this what 'bookmark' is Sally? .  Otherwise, how is it done please @Dan

I'm so pleased I asked the question and that I got such an in-depth reply.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: henchard on April 13, 2016, 05:30:43 pm
One of the biggest causes of bloat particularly in cattle is a lot of clover in the field, particularly when they are turned out onto fresh pasture.

One of the most successfu methods of dealing with it (particularly in cattle) is to to get them straight inside and feed them hay rather than leave them on the grass. Used to have hundreds of cattle as a youngster and this always worked if you catch them early enough. It's usually much less of a problem with sheep. Can I ask those affected if there pastures have a lot of clover in them?

More info and pdf link here

https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/sheep/health/other/bloat (https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/animals-and-livestock/sheep/health/other/bloat)
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: SallyintNorth on April 13, 2016, 06:17:51 pm
Is this what 'bookmark' is Sally?

In the absence of any kind of 'favourite' functionality, I use :bookmark: to give me searchable posts.

Others can search on my bookmarks of course, by searching for the word and 'by SallyIntNorth', and/or of course create their own.

Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: pharnorth on April 13, 2016, 06:21:25 pm
Very useful Fsmnutter, many thanks. 

Strangely one of the first things I recall about sheep- I think from 'Far From the Madding Crowd'. Not my favourite Hardy so can't be bothered to trawl through it but would be interested to know if it is in there and if the description is accurate should anyone know.   
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: SallyintNorth on April 13, 2016, 06:24:25 pm
Yes it's FFtMC, Angel Clare saving Bathsheba's flock as I recall.  Sticks a knife in their sides to let the gas escape.  Thought we were going to have to do it with a calf once, but the TAS special remedy did the trick!
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: ladyK on April 13, 2016, 06:29:35 pm
Very enlightening, thank you FSMN!
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: pharnorth on April 13, 2016, 06:42:00 pm
Thanks Sally it is about 40 years since I did it on the O level syllabus. I reckon it was what scared me off sheep for the next 35 years. I prefer fsmnutter's solution.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: suziequeue on April 13, 2016, 06:46:26 pm
I vaguely recall a similar story relating to a cow in the James Herriot books. It was replicated on the TV series and I think it was Seigfried Farnon standing there covered in partially fermented grass which came out under great pressure when he put the knife in. :roflanim:
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Dan on April 13, 2016, 07:05:35 pm
I think it will help a lot of people to have this reply in the permanent pink bit at the top of the sheep section (as there is in coffee lounge).   Is this what 'bookmark' is Sally? .  Otherwise, how is it done please Dan

I've stickied it so it will stay at the top of the Sheep section. In the absence of an on-site bookmarking system I'm happy to take nominations for posts that should be stickied, and in time put into an index of useful posts by subject.

@SallyintNorth I'll look through your bookmarks and sticky those, thanks for having the great idea to do this in the past.  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Hellybee on April 13, 2016, 11:05:22 pm
Brilliant post, I'm sure I remember reading on here about the water content being a factor too, wet grass more bubbles/gas? 



Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: verdifish on April 14, 2016, 11:06:54 am
Fsmnutter I am proud to call you my best mate and partner.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Bionic on April 14, 2016, 12:33:36 pm
Fsmnutter I am proud to call you my best mate and partner.

Awwww
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: suziequeue on April 14, 2016, 12:39:54 pm
Oh VF - you're such an ole romaaaaaantic
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: EP90 on April 14, 2016, 05:19:01 pm
A  serendipity post, thanks fsmnutter.
This morning a 3 week old bottle fed lamb came out of the shed “bloated”.  Each year I purposely raise a few cade lambs and each year there is one that suffers from bloat. They don’t go out on grass for a couple of months, have creap and hay on hand, bottle feeds are more frequent than milk manufactures recommend, feeds are interrupted for a minute or two rather than let them have the whole bottle in one go, hygiene is OCD, yet one gets bloat !!  I’m getting paranoid....
A mixture of castor oil, veg oil and bicarb as recommended by a few on TAS has worked up to now.  Todays patient is looking better, swelling going down and looking for food although no milk until tomorrow earliest.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Coximus on April 15, 2016, 08:58:16 am
High sugar and protein content in the food - especially pasture and clover in spring, can bring about bloat in sheep.

I find on a few fields which bloat anything in april and may, its worth feeding the animals up heavily on hay before moving them in, so the change of diet is more gradual, and trying to tightly stock the field as well so theyre less likely to suddenly gorge.

Some other peopel I know dont "move" the flock, but just leave the gate open between fields for the same reason, so the animals change diet over 24 hours rather than instantly.

This helps reduce bloating alot.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Remy on April 15, 2016, 07:54:45 pm
Thanks for the informative explanation  :thumbsup:


I've only ever had bottle fed lambs suffer with bloat, assumed it was too much/too quickly and the lambs usually weren't interested in further feeds.  I've withheld the milk and from researching online given a syringe or two of vegetable oil, and so far it's worked like a treat.  I also read that warm bottle milk can predispose to it and feeding cold is better (although they do prefer warm!).
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: juliem on April 21, 2016, 11:32:10 pm


I always thought it was the Alan Bates character that stuck the knife in...thinking of the 1967 film.Have not seen the 2015 version yet..does it still show all those sheep being lost over the cliff.was haunted by that for days.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Coastie on April 22, 2016, 08:55:35 am
Re FFTMC Juliem.  Yes, the shepherd is Gabriel Oaks who saves her sheep. All the farm scenes were filmed at Mapperton House in Dorset where I work. And no animals were injured in the making of the film  ;D although the cliff scene is still there.  The new film is very different from the 60's Classic but it is interesting to compare them. Apologies for going off topic
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: juliem on April 22, 2016, 07:10:51 pm
checked out the website for Mapperton House...looks idyllic....will definitely visit if I am in the area.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Emmatread on July 30, 2016, 08:28:51 pm
Does anyone know whether a sheep/older lamb with bloat will still urinate or pass faeces?
Thanks x
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: Daisys Mum on August 01, 2016, 12:47:31 pm
it looked very like one of my ewes had bloat last night , she lambed 5 weeks ago. She seemed happy enough, still nobbling grass but she was enormous, she was still passing urine and faeces so decided to leave her until this morning with my son doing regular checks on her during the night. This morning she is completely back to normal, I do have a lot of grass and my ewes are all very fat.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: SallyintNorth on August 01, 2016, 01:17:31 pm
I think it will depend on the severity of the bloat.  If the rumen has stopped completely, then the rest of the digestion will stop also, and pooing will stop.  But they could still be pooing as bloat gets started, so I don't think you would use seeing it poo as a diagnostic to say it's not bloat.

If it has stopped pooing, and you treat the bloat, and it starts pooing again, then that's a very good sign, of course.

Not urinating would be very serious; that would indicate that the kidneys have packed up.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: fsmnutter on August 02, 2016, 01:49:25 pm
Not urinating would be very serious; that would indicate that the kidneys have packed up.
Or it has bladder stones and a blockage.
Absolutely essential that a sheep/goat/cat/dog that is not urinating see a vet asap, as a blocked urethra can rupture or a blocked bladder can cause raised potassium in the blood and heart to slow/stop. Very rapidly fatal in either of these instances.
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: wildorchardfarm on September 04, 2017, 03:12:04 pm
Hi there. I am new to keeping sheep but my main concern in starting is worry about bloat. I have the option of purchasing some shetland sheep.I planted a new pasture this year and it is very clover rich. It has 11 different grasses and other herbs in too but its the clover and weeds that have taken over. Please see picture attached.
Its taken me a while to get an electric fence set up, i would like to be rotationally grazinv sheep and goats around the 10 acre field outdoors all year. But! A local farmer has scared me saying he wouldnt put sheep on it as its too rich for them. I have read that you can inyroduce them to a different diet gradually putting them on pasture for a limited time, bring them out, watch for bloat and have remedies at the ready. This thread is giving me hope...thanks for all the information. Im just asking now for encouragement to start doing this or if you think im aski g for trouble. I do have another field with v short yorkshire fog as a back up but its the new pasture i really want eaten.
Thanks rosie
Title: Re: What causes bloat?
Post by: greggy on November 10, 2018, 02:15:40 pm
Dont take what I say as gospel, but I would put *mine* in there, first for half hr or so, then back out to other feed paddock with what they are used too, same again next day, then an hr, then 2 etc etc...after 7/10 days or so, they should be used too it.

We are in drought, so I am basically moving them like this from hand feed paddock, to pasture, smash it down in a small area, then move on. It is very hands on though.