Sheep Nutritional Diseases Part 2
In the second part of this series, we will be explaining the occurrence, symptoms and treatments of abosomal bloat and acidosis. These two metabolic conditions are caused by bacteria that rapidly ferments nutrients in the gut of ruminants, producing large amounts of gas along with various other symptoms.
Also known as tympany, abosomal bloat is a condition that affects hand-reared kids and lambs. It is believed to be caused by a bacteria-like clostridium perfringins type A, as well as Sarcina. As bacterial growth takes place, the milk in the stomach ferments, producing an excess of gas, which causes the abosmasum to bloat.
The affected young develop swollen abdomens, leading to abdominal pain. The animals will be lethargic and weak, and may grind their teeth. In most cases this condition is fatal.
As many lambs and kids that are affected by this condition die, prevention is considered the best course of action.The occurrence of this disease can be prevented by adding penicillin to the milk replacer or normal cows milk.
In cases where young have developed this condition, sodium bicarbonate can be added to the water to neutralize the acid forming in the stomach. In serious cases a veterinarian or animal health technician should be contacted to perform a puncture into the abosmasum, in order to let the gas escape.
If milk replacers are being used, it should be mixed according to the manufacturer’s direction, and care should be taken to ensure that there are no lumps in the formula. Kids and lambs should be self-fed to encourage them to have smaller meals at more frequent intervals. Bottles and nipples, as well as buckets should be disinfected.
Also known as grain overload or grain poisoning, acidosis occurs when ruminants like cattle and sheep eat large amounts of high grain feed. Rather than being digested, this feed ferments at a rapid pace thanks to gut microbes, and produces lactic acid which lowers the pH of the rumen.
Acidosis often occurs when animals are introduced to a high concentrate diet of highly fermentable carbohydrates, without a proper adaptation period.
Animals suffering from acidosis will display signs of dehydration and thirst, bloating on the left side of the abdomen, staggering, lack of appetite and diarrhoea, as well as a tendency to lie down and signs of depression.
Treatments may vary depending on how serious the condition is, and may require veterinary intervention. Drenching the infected animal with a bicarbonate solution or treating it with intravenous fluids are often both applicable. Proper management will have to be put in place, to ensure that secondary infections and abscesses do not occur.
Acidosis is a preventable condition, if the proper steps are put in place. A proper adaptation period should be followed, when introducing a high grain diet to animals for the first time. Ensure that your livestock always has access to roughages and monitor your flock for any signs of depression, lethargy or lameness.
Certain antibiotics may be fed, to reduce the amount of lactic acid-producing bacteria in the gut.
Contact you nearest Molatek technical advisor if your flock is showing any of the above symptoms, or if you feel there is cause for concern.