Legume Bloat in Cattle

  A nutritional disorder that can occur during the spring of the year is bloat as a result of clover consumption.  Bloat is an accumulation of gas in the rumen and although it is not always fatal, it can be.  Although clover can cause bloat, the advantages of having clover in the pasture far out-weigh the dangers associated with the clover.  Bloat is a very complex problem involving both plant and animal factors.  Most research indicates that certain proteins in the plants cause the formation of a stable foam in the rumen leading to the gas build-up.  These proteins decrease in content as the forage matures and as it dries during the hay-making process.  Some animals are more prone to bloat than others.  Some may never bloat while others are very susceptible to bloat.
    In general, if the legume portion of the pasture does not exceed 50% there is minimal danger of bloat.  Best management procedure is to provide the cattle with continuous access to the pasture because constant removal and reintroduction to the legumes will increase the likelihood of bloat.  Poloxalene is a compound that reduces surface tension and is effective at preventing bloat.  Most of the time this compound is incorporated into a molasses-based block that may also contain minerals.  This method of control has been shown to be quite useful.  Follow label directions and make sure cattle are consuming the block.
    Early, subacute cases of bloat may be relieved with a rubber hose as a stomach tube to release the accumulated gas.  Latter stages of advanced bloat need to be handled by your veterinarian.