Feedlotting can take place as part of on-farm operations, or in commercial feedlots. The main aim of feedlotting is to ensure that cattle develop a good quality and amount of fat and muscle in relationship to the amount of bone on the carcass.
Regardless of whether the feedlot is commercial or not, feedlot managers should ensure that the diet of the herd is properly maintained so that cattle do not develop disorders or conditions relating to nutrition or poor management.
Bloat (also referred to as ruminal tympany) occurs when an animal’s digestive tract produces more gas than is being excreted and can produce a distention on the ruminant’s left side. If the bloat does not subside or is not taken care of then respiration may be affected and death may occur due to suffocation. There are two types of bloat, namely frothy bloat and gas bloat.
Frothy bloat, more often found in feedlot ruminants than free-gas bloat, occurs when the gases caused by ruminal fermentation become trapped in a foamy layer in the rumen. Because these bubbles do not burst or erupt, the pressure in the rumen slowly starts to increase. This kind of bloat that is found in feedlot cattle is thought to be a result of small particles in the feed which causes the fermentation gases, or due to slime-producing bacteria in the rumen.
Acidosis is caused due to overfeeding of highly fermentable carbohydrate diets, such as those found in feedlots. The high grain intake lowers the rumen pH from about 6.5+ to below 5.5, at which point the lactic acid production increases and causes acidosis. Learn more about acidosis here.
Laminitis is a disease, often brought about by acidosis, where an animal may display signs of lameness. This lameness, caused by inflammation and necrosis of the hoof tissue, occurs due to the disruption of microcirculation which causes a deprivation of oxygen and nutrients to the area.
Polioencephalomalacia (PEM) is a neurological condition that has been linked to a number of factors such as a deficiency in thiamine, lead poisoning or sulfur poisoning, and is one of the disorders that has been picked up in feedlot steers. It can be observed in individual animals as well as in herds, with younger animals more commonly affected. Feedlot cattle are more at risk of of PEM than cattle grazing on veld or pasture due to the high level of sulphur in the feed. PEM can be observed as blindness, tonic-clonic seizures and twitching.
Liver abscesses often occur in feedlot animals, and is linked to bacterial infection. Liver abscesses are also often linked to ruminal acidosis and rumenitis. Control of liver abscesses is possible through careful nutritional and antibiotic management.
Sudden death syndrome
Sudden death syndrome occurs unexpectedly and sporadically in feedlot cattle that have been fed a high energy, low roughage diet for an extended period of time, where animals may pass without any previous signs of upset. It is thought that the deaths are as a result of respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, that have been overlooked. It is also thought that erratic and overfeeding may be the cause of death related to acidosis.
Little to no chewing of feed may result in sharp objects being swallowed by cattle, which could lead to traumatic gastritis. These objects often get lodged in the animal’s reticulum, and may puncture the wall. Affected animals may be off feed or show signs of constipation. It is not uncommon for animals to recover by themselves.
Speak to your nearest Molatek Advisor if you would like to learn more about feedlot nutrition.