Occasionally, abomasal bloat will be an issue on farms – with clostridium bacteria or lactic acid usually to blame for producing the gas.

The issue is generally caused by poor hygiene, dirty bedding and inaccurate feeding.

With the calving season now underway on farms across the country, it is important that a focus is placed on maintaining calf health and preventing cases of bloat from occurring.

It can often be seen on farms with computerised calf feeders, but it can also be seen on farms that are mixing milk replacers.

Abomasal bloat

Although it may be difficult to determine the exact cause of cases on farms, there are a few key areas to focus on to prevent cases.

The first area to focus on is hygiene in the calf shed and particularly for the calf feeding equipment.

Ensure that the feeding equipment and teats are in good condition and kept clean. It is a good idea to change teats on the feeders regularly, especially when using an automatic calf feeder.

The second area to keep an eye on is consistent mixing of milk replacer, as high concentration powder feeds may be a contributing factor.

On farms where automatic feeders are being used, it is important that the water pressure is monitored, as a drop in water pressure can result in a high concentration of powder to mix with water being fed to calves.

Osmolaity can also be an issue – this refers to the solid content of milk/milk replacer as it flows through the abomasum.

Anything that delays the flow of milk through the abomasum allows bacteria to multiply, increasing the risk of bloat; if clostridium perfringens bacteria is present, harmful toxins will be produced.

These toxins can then damage organs within the calf, i.e., the heart, liver and kidneys.

Calf rearing

It is important that a focus is placed on preventing cases of bloat in young calves. Unfortunately, once a calf develops this form of bloat, it is often too late – so prevention is better than cure.

Preventing bloat requires a high level of hygiene in the calf shed and from the calf feeding equipment.

Ensure that the feeding of calves remains consistent during the rearing period and that automatic calf feeders are calibrated regularly.

Focus on keeping the basics right and checking all the equipment used for feeding calves on a regular basis.