Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pasture Bloat

Normally this is the time of year that our winter small grain pastures are getting ready to make significant growth and bloat should be on our minds from a management stand point.  Of course now days what is normal.  Let’s keep an open mind and pray a lot, so in the near future I can be writing articles that reflect, due to recent rains and favorable growing conditions producers need to be aware of the potential for bloat in cattle.  To top it off because of the rains producers are actually getting excited about putting out fertilizer.  All of these things are very good but at the same time be prepared for your pastures to become too high of quality and cause some potential for bloat in your cattle.  The following information can be very useful for Wise County beef producers about bloat from Ted McCollum III, PhD, PAS-ACAN, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Amarillo, Texas If we receive the favorable weather we need. 

Foamy or frothy bloat reduces performance and can potentially lead to death of cattle.  Frothy bloat occurs when the gases normally produced during ruminal fermentation cannot be expelled from the rumen by eructation (belching).   At the onset of bloat, cattle may cease eating and the bloat may dissipate.  As the severity of bloat increases, the rumen becomes more distended and the level of discomfort increases.  If no intervention occurs, death can result from respiratory distress and heart failure. 

            Anytime cattle are consuming highly digestible feedstuffs and forages the potential for frothy bloat exists.  Carbohydrates and soluble proteins from these feeds are rapidly degraded and fermented in the rumen. Slime-producing bacteria that degrade soluble proteins and small feed particles produce a slime that can develop into a stable, proteinaceous foam.  Mineral composition of the forage may also affect the stability (surface tension) of the foam.  Bloat occurs when the gases produced by the fermentation become trapped in this foam and cannot be expelled.

Frothy bloat on pasture is usually associated with actively growing, highly digestible forages that contain low fiber and relatively high crude protein (and soluble protein) levels.  Among these forages are small grain forages and legumes such as alfalfa and red and white clover. 

The occurrence of bloat is affected by a number of factors – soil fertility, climatic conditions, stage of plant development, grazing management, and animal predisposition – among others.  Because of the multiple factors, reducing or preventing bloat may require multiple management approaches on a single operation and, the success, or lack thereof, of a preventative measure can vary from year-to-year and operation-to-operation.

Soil fertility practices may influence the incidence of bloat on small grains pastures.  Work in the Rolling Plains suggests that high, single applications of N on wheat increases the potential for bloat.  This and management history on fields may partially explain why bloat outbreaks may occur on some fields but not on others in the locale.

Stage of plant development affects the concentration of carbohydrates and soluble proteins that can provoke bloat.  This again may partially explain why bloat outbreaks may occur on some fields but not on others in the locale.  The forage may be at different stages of development as influenced by planting dates, moisture conditions and other factors affecting growth.

Small grains bloat is typically a problem in the late winter/early spring when the forage is coming out of winter dormancy.  Occasionally fall/winter bloat can be a problem.  With legumes, bloat risk changes with stage of plant development.  For instance, bloat risk on alfalfa decreases as the plant matures and blooms.  Knowing when bloat risk increases and subsides during the grazing season aids the timely application of prevention practices.

For pastures containing bloat-provocative legumes, it is recommended that the legumes comprise no more than 50% of the forage mix.  An alternative is to plant adapted legumes that are less bloat provocative. 

Grazing programs should focus on turn-out practices and forage availability.  Prior to turning cattle onto pasture ensure that the cattle are full.  This will tend to limit immediate grazing activity and forage consumption.  Likewise, if cattle are managed under a rotational grazing scheme, judiciously manage forage availability.  Moving cattle from pastures with a limited forage supply (and hence limited consumption) to fresh paddocks with an abundant supply (and hence increased consumption) may predispose the cattle to bloat.  Adjust the rotation so cattle are not rotated from a limited forage supply to an abundant forage supply.

During bloat risk periods, providing access to hay or other forages may reduce the occurrence of bloat.  Assuming the cattle will consume the hay/forage, consumption of the bloat-provocative forage may be reduced and hence reduce the risk of bloat. 

Poloxalene (Bloatguard) is a mild detergent that reduces the foam in the rumen and hence can reduce the incidence of bloat.  The product is available in different forms – blocks, mineral supplements, liquids, top dresses.  To be effective, the cattle must consume a sufficient amount of poloxalene daily.  Poloxalene in a self-fed form will probably never totally prevent bloat because of the variation in daily consumption by individual animals.  Hand feeding poloxalene in a larger volume of feed will increase the consistency of daily intake.

Surfactants, anti-foaming agents, have been used successfully in some grazing situations. In order for surfactants to be effective, they must be consumed on a daily basis. Water treatments are effective as long as the treated water is the only source of water and the surfactant concentrations are maintained.

Ionophore feed additives may also aid in bloat prevention.  Microbial gas production in the rumen is reduced by ionophore consumption. Studies on irrigated wheat in New Mexico demonstrated that Rumensin dramatically reduced the incidence and severity of bloat.  Ionophores can be delivered in blocks, mineral supplements, pelleted supplements and mixed feeds.  As noted with poloxalene, these feed additives will not totally eliminate bloat.  In addition to aiding with bloat prevention, the ionophores will improve daily weight gain.

Anecdotal data suggests that salt (sodium) consumption may reduce incidence of bloat.  A survey of Oklahoma producers indicated that bloat incidence was lower when salt was available to cattle.  Remember that complete mineral supplements for cattle contain salt.  Oklahoma data has also shown that cattle grazing wheat and consuming a complete mineral balanced for wheat pasture gain more rapidly than cattle consuming salt alone and inclusion of Rumensin further improved gains.  So offering a mineral supplement provides a means of delivering salt as well as an ionophore, both of which may help reduce bloat prevalence, as well as improving performance.

Some cattle are predisposed to bloat.  This may reflect physiological differences, differences in ruminal microbial populations, differences in forage selection and forage intake, or other factors.  If animals are chronic bloaters, the best approach is to remove them from the group.

The only 100% effective means of stopping bloat is to remove the cattle from the bloat provocative pasture. 

Several factors, acting in combination or individually, can lead to a bloat problem.  No one single management practice will be completely effective all of the time.  Knowledge of when bloat occurs and why it occurs can help in developing and implementing a management plan to reduce the occurrence.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Exercise is something most of us love to hate. But there is good news...walking is one of the safest and easiest ways to get the required amount of physical activity we need each week. Let's review the benefits of walking when someone has Type 2 diabetes.
Research shows sustained, regular exercise, like walking, reduces the risk of several life-threatening diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and probably certain cancers. For people with diabetes, it improves the way insulin works and gives you improved blood glucose readings!
 It is important to take precautions by checking your blood glucose (sugar) before and after workouts. Foot care is important as well. Check your feet before and after workouts for blisters, breaks in the skin, redness or swelling.
To achieve these health benefits, you need to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most, if not all days of the week. This goal can be accomplished with a single brisk 30-minute walk, several shorter walks that add up to 30 minutes, or with a short walk combined with other physical pursuits, such as yard work, or energetic housework.
The faster you swing your arms as you walk, the faster you'll be able to walk, since your arms and legs move in sync. To swing your arms faster, bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle rather than letting your arms hang down at your sides, and don't let your hands swing higher than chest level. When walking, push off with the balls of your feet, and take quicker strides, since extending your normal stride can cause low-back pain. Your body will automatically choose the right stride length that works best for you.  Remember, keep your head up, shoulders back, and chest out to maintain a comfortable upright posture.
 If you are concerned about pushing yourself too hard during the work-out, take notice of what your body is telling you. You're probably over-exercising if walking feels like drudgery; you have signs of low blood sugar, muscle cramps, leg pain, breathlessness or extreme fatigue.  It's best to walk with someone else, just in case you need extra encouragement or a reminder to check your blood sugar while exercising.
If you would like to get started soon with a walking program, call the Wise County Extension office at 940/627-3341 and ask about Walk Across Texas. This is a free, fun, group physical activity program. All you need is a group of 8 friends, family members, or co-workers who want to keep track of the amount they walk for 8 weeks. You can encourage one another to keep going and see if your team can reach your destination first before other groups participating too. Walk Across Texas starts March 2 and continues through April 26.
Remember, before starting any exercise program, even walking – check with your doctor!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Annual Pasture Management


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Coconut Craze

Walk into a local health store, or even your local grocery store and you are likely to see coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of the latest health trends. However, do you have all of the facts on coconut oil? Coconut oil is a tropical oil made from the coconut fruit. There are many health claims about coconut oil ranging from the treatment of lice to treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. However, not all claims related to coconut oil have been substantiated by research.
There are two main types of coconut oil used in cooking: virgin and refined. The first type is “virgin” coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is extracted from the fruit of fresh mature coconuts without using chemicals or high temperatures. This type of coconut is considered “unrefined” and has a light, sweet, nutty flavor and aroma. It is often used for baking or sautéing at lower temperatures less than 350 degrees. Refined coconut oil is made from dried coconut meat. It is often chemically bleached and deodorized. It lacks the sweet nutty flavor of virgin coconut oil. Refined coconut is often used for baking or stir frying, or cooking at temperatures up to 425 degrees.
Sometimes food manufacturers use a version of coconut oil that has been processed further to produce partially hydrogenated coconut oil. Partially hydrogenated coconut oil contains trans-fat. We should limit our consumption of trans fats. Check the nutrition facts panel for trans fats.
In regard to nutritional composition, coconut oil is considered a solid fat. It is 92% saturated fat, which is higher than butter. In fact, with the exception of palm kernel oil, all other common culinary oils, including canola, corn, safflower, soybean, flaxseed, and olive oil contain significantly less saturated fat than coconut oil.
Coconut oil is a plant based food and therefore does not contain cholesterol.  Many people believe that coconut oil may have positive health benefits even though it is high in saturated fat. There is some evidence that coconut oil may have a neutral, or perhaps beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. However, while there is much “hype” around coconut oil, there is not adequate research regarding beneficial health benefits.
For now, it’s best for individuals to follow recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans regarding intakes of saturated and transfats. The current recommendations state that Americans should consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. In addition, individuals should keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible, especially by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fat, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
The bottom line on coconut oil is that we should continue to limit intakes of saturated fat. There is not yet enough scientific evidence to indicate that coconut oil is “healthier” than other saturated fats. Individuals should especially avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated coconut oil. If you choose to cook with coconut oil, use virgin coconut oil, and use it sparingly. To learn more about nutrition topics, contact the Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

17th Annual Wise County Walk Across Texas

            Through a modest increase in daily activity, most Americans can improve their health.  WALK ACROSS TEXAS is a program that persuades and motivates people of all ages to make the most important get started.  It is a fun and flexible way to exercise.  The program is simple, free and safe.  All you need is a team of eight people to get moving, with one person being designated as the “team captain.”  The team who walks farthest “across Texas” will win, but everyone who participates will take home a healthy habit - walking for fitness.
            Team members report their daily mileage to the team captain, and the team captain reports the individual and team total miles on the following web address:  or  to the Extension office at the end of each week by: telephone (940.627.3341), fax (940.627.8070) or e-mail
            Teams are not required to walk or ride together, although they may if they desire.  Teams simply pool their mileage each week to work toward “walking across Texas”.   Members may walk, jog, ride a bike, skateboard, roller blade, tread mill, swim, spin and/or run.  A large Texas map showing the progress of teams will be in Texas AgriLife Extension, Wise County office, and at other various locations.
            So dust off your walking shoes and prepare to join us in this 8 week journey beginning on March 2, and continuing through April 26.    
            Walk Across Texas is sponsored by Texas AgriLife Extension. We are looking for captains and team members.  Please encourage organizations in which you are involved to participate in this endeavor.
            Remember prevention works! Individuals can save a lot of pain, worry and money by avoiding health problems. I encourage you to join the Walk Across Texas Program today.
            Call or come by Texas AgriLife  Extension Service, Wise County office, located at 206 South State, in Decatur or call 940-627-3341 to pick up your Walk Across Texas Team Captain Packet. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Food Handler’s Course

Foodborne illnesses can be prevented by following simple food safety practices. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension-Wise County provides a Food Protection Management Training Program that seeks to reduce the risk of food borne illness. 
Food service employees and those who operate a cottage food business can attend a two hour food handler’s class on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm at the Wise County Extension office in Decatur to learn more about good personal hygiene, cross contamination and time and temperature abuse. The registration fee is $20.00 and covers course materials and an official food handler card. Registration deadline to attend the Food Handler certification is February 13, 2015. Space is limited.
A recent change to the Texas Cottage Food Law requires that anyone who operates a cottage food business have a food handler card.  The new food law also allows more foods that can be prepared and sold from a residential kitchen.  The previous law limited the foods that could be sold to mainly baked goods, jams and jellies, and dried herbs.  Under the amended law, which took effect September 1, 2013, the list of foods that can be sold has been expanded to include pickles, popcorn snacks, candy, unroasted nut butters, and vinegar.   In addition, these foods can be sold at venues outside the home including farmers markets, roadside stands, and fairs. 
For questions concerning these classes or the Texas Cottage Food Law please call 940/627-3341 or come by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension-Wise County Office, 206 S. State St., Decatur, Texas 76234. The Food Protection Management (FPM) Training Program is brought to you by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in cooperation with the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the County Commissioners Court Cooperating.