Rayner Reckons

Aug 19

Some tips for the new season

Posted on Friday, August 19, 2016

What a turn around to the season in northern NSW!  I’ve been out on a number of places from Tamworth to Lightning Ridge in the last few weeks.  Everywhere I’ve been I’ve been struck by how much growth is occurring in pastures and crops.

Of course many of my clients in southern NSW and even on the New England are still in the cold grip of winter, but the days are getting longer and warmer, and I think their turn for the season to kick away isn’t far off.

As we move into spring or if you are already grazing some of this new growth, don’t forget the season will bring a few challenges with it.

The two greatest challenges will come from bloat and from the clostridial disease Enterotoxaemia or Pulpy Kidney.  Now I know I’ve written about both of these in previous blogs, but it’s worth spending some time to refresh your knowledge on both of these issues.


Bloat is caused by the release of gas caused by the digestion of lush pasture material.  Normally cattle do a pretty good job in belching out this gas.  However legumes and some lush pastures produces foam that builds up in the rumen during digestion.  This foam traps the gas and prevents the animal from belching the gas out.

Meanwhile the rumination process continues to occur, producing more gas and more foam, and the pressure inside the rumen continues to build.  If the foam doesn’t break down the gas remains trapped, and the pressure increases until the internal organs are crushed and the animal dies.

A real issue with boat is there is no silver bullet to prevent it occurring.  I know many producers hope that one single strategy will solve their concerns.  Unfortunately there isn’t a single 100% prevention. 

Strategies that can work will include:

  • Restrict pasture intake by limiting grazing time or strip grazing
  • Don't place hungry cattle onto lush green pastures, particularly if it is high in legume content
  • It can be useful to allow cattle access to older grass pastures or hay when grazing potential bloat risk pastures

I know many producers do use bloat capsules, bloat blocks and even licks as well as medicating water supplies with a bloat oil.  Its important to remember these options have limitations.  Animal consumption of these products is pretty variable.  So you cant be certain that ever animal is using the product or that they have consumed enough or even if they are regularly using the products.

Don’t forget bloat capsules are not always available when you need them.  They also take a few days to take effect and this means animals are still at risk just after they receive the capsule.  If you are trying to apply bloat oil in water troughs remember if cattle can access water in other ways they may not use medicated water in troughs.

Bloat is such a challenge, and the only effective strategy is to use a number of treatments and prevention strategies in combination to reduce your risk as much as possible.

Pulpy Kidney

Pulpy Kidney can be a significant contributor to losses on lush pastures.  It can be a really big issue for many lamb producers, but cattle losses can also be fairly high in some circumstances. 

Clostridial bacteria that live in the intestines of the animals cause the disease.  Under the right conditions, generally when there is a rapid change to flow of feed through the digestive system the bacteria multiply.  This rapid increase produces enough toxins to overwhelm the animal’s immune system and death happens pretty swiftly.

Fortunately the disease can be prevented through the use of the 5 in 1 vaccine.  However it’s important to remember that the component of the vaccine that controls Pulpy Kidney will decline reasonably swiftly.

So if you are looking at a good season and planning to graze lush pastures for 2 or 3 months, I‘d recommend you consider regular 5 in 1 boosters while you are grazing that feed.  To work out when to give the boosters make sure you read the label.

Don’t forget if you are unsure or you need some input to make the most of the conditions ahead, you can always get in contact with me.

Jan 22

Dealing with bloat

Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2015

If I had to describe the feeling around the cattle industry at the start of 2015, I think I would have to say it was optimistic, tinged with relief.  I think these feelings are a direct result of the combination of rainfall & pasture growth over a wide area.  Combine this with some of the highest prices many people can recall being offered for cattle of all descriptions and its hard not to be relieved and optimistic about the future. 

The rain certainly hasn't reached everyone, and there are still large parts of Northern NSW in drought conditions.  Sadly I've had to help clients make the difficult decision to completely de-stock.  The only positive is the market strength ensured this decision was rewarded with a good financial return.

Seasonal conditions on the western side of the North West Slopes of NSW and on parts of the plains, still look much like this picture.  The frustration of seeing the rain skirting around is immense.  

My advice has been to continue to follow the drought plan developed for the property, and to look to reduce numbers through selling.  At this stage feeding cattle is fair too expensive and with the market as strong as it is, its financially the only sensible option to consider.

While I have been working with producers on drought plans and market decisions, I've also been spending time with producers struggling to utilise the rapid growth of feed they now have as a result of the rain.  

In some case pasture mass is still average or patchy, but the rapid daily growth of pastures is now starting to see herbage mass build up.  Keeping pastures grazed is a challenge, and there are various options we have been discussing.

For most people the rapid growth is good news. However there are a few tips worth considering as you start to use this pasture growth for  livestock production.

The most commonly referred to issue is bloat.  Bloat is caused when grazing young lush pasture, and is more prevalent in pastures with high legume content.  That is pastures with plenty of clover, medics or lucerne.  One of the by products of ruminant digestion is a large amount of gas.  Normally cattle can belch this gas out.  

Unfortunately the nature of legumes results in a foam developing in the rumen which traps the gas. Cattle cant really belch the gas or foam, and the pressure build up causes the rumen to press against the lungs.  If the pressure cant be relieved the animal will die, generally from the pressure on the lungs and obstruction to breathing and blood flow.

I reckon bloat is one of the hardest things to manage, and there are no absolute methods to prevent it occurring.  Very early or mild cases can be treated with an oral anti bloat preparation, which helps break the foam up.  Animals more affected will need veterinary attention.  

Managing to minimise bloat often involves a combination of strategies.  These include:

* Restrict pasture intake by limiting grazing time or strip grazing

*Don't place hungry cattle onto lush green pastures, particularly if it is high in legume content

*It can be useful to allow cattle access to older grass pastures or hay when grazing potential bloat risk pastures

Some producers have had good success with bloat capsules, bloat blocks and medicating water supplies with a bloat oil.  Its important to remember these options have limitations.  Bloat capsules are not always available when you need them.  They also take a few days to take effect and this means animals are still at risk just after they receive the capsule.

Bloat blocks or water treatments rely on animals consuming them.  Not all animals will use blocks, and on lush pastures or if cattle can access water in other ways, they may not use medicated water in troughs.  Every situation will be slightly different and if you are concerned about a pasture and its risk, get some advice and develop a strategy that works for you.  NSW DPI has a useful guide on bloat which lists some treatment options if bloat becomes and issue.

Most people blame bloat for cattle losses when grazing lush pasture.  While bloat can be a cause of death, many more animals are killed by the Clostridial Bacteria that causes Pulpy Kidney, or to give it its technical name, Enterotoxaemia.  

The bacteria that cause this disease normally live in the intestine in low numbers.  Sudden changes of feed allow these bacteria to multiply rapidly.  As they do they produce toxin faster than the body can deal with and death of the animal occurs very quickly.  Unfortunately there isn't really any treatment for this disease.  The first sign is often finding dead cattle.

Its important to prevent the disease by making sure your animals have been vaccinated with 5 in 1 and if they are grazing lush feeds or changing diets, that you give them a booster shot before you make the change.  There may be times when you have to give a booster every 90 days.

I reckon that the growth we are getting in most areas will be the biggest help for producers.  So to make the best use of it, just remember that some simple strategies, combined with an appropriate vaccination program will stand you and your cattle in better stead for the rest of the growing season.



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