AUBURN, Alabama—Producers are offering supplemental feeds to their cattle because of reduced grazing options and continuing dry conditions across much of Alabama. Dr. Soren Rodning, a veterinarian with Alabama Extension, said livestock may be at risk for a condition called ruminal acidosis.
Ruminal acidosis is a digestive disorder where the rumen’s pH is more acidic than normal. It can occur in beef cattle of all ages. Mature cows and bulls are at greatest risk of ruminal acidosis when provided new or irregular access to supplemental feeds high in rapidly fermentable carbohydrates, as may happen during drought conditions. Risk for ruminal acidosis increases when calves are weaned onto rations high in rapidly fermentable carbohydrates, especially when they have not had time to adapt to the new ration. Calves are also at risk when creep-fed supplements high in rapidly fermentable carbohydrates.
Guidelines for reducing the risk of acidosis when using supplemental feeds
- An adaptation period is required when providing a new feed to cattle. Allow a one week adaptation period for mature cows. Start with 2 to 3 pounds of feed and increase by this amount every three days until the target feeding rate is achieved.
- Feeding rate should be based on a forage analysis and the stage of production of the animal being fed.
- Hand-feed high-starch feeds daily. Do not bulk feed every-other-day or every few days.
- Provide free-choice hay or adequate pasture to meet animal daily dry matter requirements. Cattle require a minimum of 0.5% of their body weight per day in long-stemmed roughage when fed supplemental feeds. Cattle should not be withheld from forage/roughage prior to starting a new feed. Pastures should have a minimum of 4 to 6 inches of growth for adequate forage to be provided in the diet of grazing beef cattle.
To learn more about the types of acidosis, the causes and more in-depth information on prevention, visit http://www.aces.edu/go/743 to read Rodning’s Preventing Ruminal Acidosis When Using Supplemental Feeds for Beef Cattle.