Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pasture Bloat

Wheat and small grain pastures have been slow to come on this fall and winter because we were dry and we have lost some nutrients in the soil due to record rainfall in 2015.   Finally, due to recent rains and favorable growing conditions producers need to be aware of the potential for bloat in cattle.  All of these conditions 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. Over the next weeks, bloat in cattle should definitely be on our minds from a management stand point. 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 A&M  AgriLife Extension Service, Amarillo, Texas.

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, March 16, 2016


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, not longer ones, 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 21.
Remember, before starting any exercise program, even walking – check with your doctor!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wise County's Walk Across Texas

It is time to begin forming your Teams of 8 for Walk Across Texas which is AgriLife Extension’s 8 week walking program!
Walk Across Texas begins Monday, March 21.
See the attached flyer or contact the Extension office for more details.
This year we are adding a mid point event which is the Wise County 4-H Color Run which is scheduled for Saturday, April 16 on the square in Decatur!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Killing Ourselves with Convenience

This week we begin to look at reasons we should all participate in the upcoming Walk Across Texas program. Kickoff is set for Monday, March 21.
Approximately 55 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. Maintaining a normal weight requires a balance between calories taken in and used for energy. Previous generations ate a lot more calories, but they worked a lot harder. They walked many places whereas today we drive even short distances.  Instead of working in the fields, we sit at our computers.  On our way home, we stop for fast food and spend an average of three or more hours watching television in the evening.
Too many calories and too much sitting are strongly linked to weight gain. A recent study found that our children are gaining weight too for the same reasons.  Overweight parents tend to have overweight children.  Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, some types of cancer, and joint problems related to arthritis. Can this trend be reversed?
The answer is yes, but if you have tried to lose weight and increase your activity level, you know changing is not easy. Eating high caloric foods and sitting in front of the television is much easier.
Changing eating and activity patterns requires effort and planning. Spend time learning about whether or not you need to lose weight and if you can safely begin an activity program.  Learn about your options.  Just because you have tried before and not been successful does not mean you cannot be successful this time.

Losing weight and increasing activity does not mean you have to suffer or spend a lot of money for special foods, pills, books, or equipment.  People who went from an average weight of 210 to an average of 145 pounds and maintained their loss for an average of 5½ years attributed their success to controlling calorie intake, limiting portion sizes, eating five meals each day, never skipping meals, eating out no more than three times each week with only one of those times at a fast food restaurant, and using up about 2,700 calories a week in physical activity beyond that required for daily activities like gardening or housecleaning.  A majority of these 629 successful losers in the National Weight Control Registry said they had been overweight since childhood or had a family history of obesity.  Getting started is hard.  Programs claiming quick weight loss with little or no effort tend to help remove little more than your dollars.

If you and your family, friends, co-workers, or church group want to get started on the road to better health, call the Wise County Extension office at 940/627-3341 to learn about Walk Across Texas.  Walk Across Texas can help you start walking and/or losing weight. The program is free and can be an important step towards better health for you and your entire family