Bloat occurs when the eructation mechanism is impaired or inhibited and the rate of gas production exceeds the animal’s ability to expel the gas.  This can kill the animal as a result of the pressure on the internal organs.

There are two types of bloat:

  1. Frothy, the most common usually associated with high clover content in the grass sward
  2. Gassy Bloat, caused by a blockage in the gullet, for example a potato, or because the animal cannot burp (milk fever).

Bloat risk is greatest on pastures with the following factors.

  1. When animals are hungry and turned onto swards containing high levels of clover.
  2. Dewy mornings and the swards are wet.
  3. Cattle are more at risk than sheep.
  4. Young animals are more at risk than older animals.
  5. When animals are offered swards with high clover content.
  6. The sward contains a lot of red clover, rather than white clover.

To minimise the risk from bloat.

  1. Do not graze red clover.
  2. Avoid grazing animals in the high risk periods of early and late season.
  3. Fed animals with a high fibre diet such as hay or straw.
  4. Turn animals onto dry clover swards. Wet herbage increases the risk of bloat.
  5. Consider the use of an antifoaming agent.

A lush dense sward of red clover (often a silage aftermath) can cause bloat in cattle.  In this situation a ring feeder of straw or haylage should be offered to dilute the effects of gas build up from grazing only red clover.  The bloat risk to sheep appears to be minimal.

Red clover and breeding sheep – all red clovers contain anti-oestrogens.  This radically affects the breeding performance of ewes and they should not be grazing red clover 6 weeks pre-tupping and 6 weeks post-tupping.

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