BLOAT (RUMEN TYMPANY)
• Overextension of the rumen and reticulum,
gas is trapped; animal is unable to belch
• More common in cattle, but is not uncommon
in goats and especially sheep.
• Can be a life-threatening condition.
• Clinical signs: distended abdomen
(left side), unusual postures, lateral
recumbency, pain, restlessness, frequent
urination/defecation, discomfort – and
• Can also be a normal post-mortem change.
BLOAT (RUMEN TYMPANY)
PRIMARY, NUTRITIONAL, OR FROTHY BLOAT
• Entrapment of the normal gases of fermentation in a stable
1. Pasture bloat
• Most common in animals grazing legume or legume-
dominated pastures, particularly alfalfa, ladino, and red and
• Also seen in animals grazing young green cereal crops, rape,
kale, turnips, and vegetable crops.
• Can also occur when animals are grazing wet grass pastures.
2. Feedlot bloat
• Occurs in feedlot due to high carbohydrate grain diet or
feeding of finely-ground grains.
SECONDARY OR FREE GAS BLOAT
• Gas cannot be expelled
because of extraruminal
obstructions to outflow.
• Secondary tympany can
occur with unusual
postures, e.g. lateral
• May also develop with
BLOAT (RUMEN TYMPANY)
• Remove blockage
• Make animal belch
• Pass tube into stomach
(free gas bloat only)
• Drench with anti-foaming agent:
vegetable oils, mineral oil,
poloxalene (e.g. Therabloat®),
simethicone preparations (e.g.
• Puncture the rumen to relieve gas
(last resort, Vx).
• Reduce amount of legume in pasture.
• Incorporate non-bloat-forming legume: birdsfoot
trefoil, crown vetch, and sericea lespedeza.
• Gradual access to at-risk pastures.
• Delay grazing until after dew has lifted.
• Feed dry hay before letting animals out to large
amounts of succulent feed.
• Feed antifoaming agent (e.g. poloxalene) or
ionophore (e.g. Bovatec®, Rumensin®).
• Monitor animals for signs of bloat.
ERGOT ALKALOIDS - FESCUE TOXICOSIS
• Tall fescue is the primary cool season grass in the
• Kentucky 31 tall fescue contains an endophyte (fungus)
that produces ergot alkaloids (toxin).
• Ergot alkaloids alter systems of the body that are
controlled by neurotransmitters (brain chemicals):
heart, blood, appetite, hormonal, gut motility, muscle
contractions, and body temperature.
• Signs of fescue toxicosis vary by livestock species.
• Sheep seem to be less affected than cattle.
• Limited information is available on goats.
• Cost to small ruminant industry is unknown
• $500-$1 billion cost to beef industry.
MINIMIZING THE EFFECTS OF FESCUE TOXICOSIS
• Dilute endophyte-infected tall fescue with other grasses or
• Replace endophyte-infected tall fescue with another forage,
e.g. endophyte-free or novel tall fescue varieties (e.g. MaxQ™
• Increase stocking rates to prevent plant maturation and seed
head formation (fungus concentrates near seed head).
• Avoid summer grazing and N fertilization.
• Stockpile for fall and winter grazing, when effects of endophyte
• Alter nutritional management by providing supplemental feed
to dilute endophyte.
• Don’t breed on endophyte-infected pastures.
• Feed mineral mixes specifically formulated for sheep or goats.
• Number one problem affecting small ruminants
• Many types of internal parasites can infect small
ruminants, but the barber pole worm
(Haemonchus contortus) and coccidia (Eimeria
spp.) are usually the most important.
• Sheep and goats share same parasites; only
coccidia is species-specific.
• Risk of clinical parasitism (i.e. treatment
required) varies by species, genetics, production
system, and climate.
• Parasite resistance varies by species, breed, age,
GRASS TETANY (STAGGERS) – HYPOMAGNESEMIA
• Low blood Magnesium (Mg).
• Caused by low level of magnesium in growing forages
and an interference of with the absorption of Mg due
to various factors.
• Most common in nursing females during early
lactation, specially during late winter, early spring.
• More common in cows than ewes and does.
• Causes hyperexcitability, muscular spasms,
convulsions, respiratory distress, collapse, and death.
• Diagnosis is usually confirmed by response to
• Combined solutions of calcium and
magnesium via IV
• Magnesium supplementation
• Supplemental feeding of hay and/or
NITRATE AND PRUSSIC ACID POISONING
• Under normal circumstances, nitrate is converted to ammonia,
then bacterial protein. There is little build-up in the plant.
• When higher amounts of nitrate are consumed, an accumulation
of nitrite may accumulate in the rumen.
Nitrates (NO3) Nitrites (NO2)
• Nitrite is absorbed into bloodstream and will convert hemoglobin
to methemoglobin, which is unable to transport oxygen.
• Animals dies from nitrate poisoning, due to lack of oxygen
• Sheep have the highest tolerance to nitrates because they have the
greatest ability to convert methemoglobin back to hemoglobin.
• Water can also be high in nitrates.
PRUSSIC ACID (CYANIDE)
• Sorghum family plants contain a
secondary compound called dhurrin,
which is enzymatically converted to
toxic prussic acid in wilting forages.
• Dangerous wilting can be caused by
drought, frost, cutting, trampling or just
• Leaves contain more toxin than stems.
• Prussic acid interferes with ability of
blood to carry oxygen, causing animals
to die from suffocation.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON NITRATE POISONING
• First reported over 100 years ago in
connection with deliberate attempts to
poison sheep on disputed ranges.
• “Salting the range” to get rid of “range
Ranchers spread KNO3 on range to
poison sheep on “cattle” ranges.
NITRATES AND PRUSSIC ACID POISONING
• Some plants are more likely to
accumulate nitrates than others.
• Annual forage crops: corn, small
grains, sudangrass, and sorghum
• Weeds: pigweed, lambsquarter,
sunflower, bindweed, and others.
• Vegetables: sugar beets, lettuce,
cabbage, potatoes, and carrots.
PRUSSIC ACID (CYANIDE)
• Prussic acid can form in young
sorghum-type plants or in the leaves of
stressed sorghum-type plants: forage
sorghum, sorghum x sudangrass,
sudangrass, and johnson grass
• Prussic acid can also form in other
plants: common milkweed,
Horsenettle, Black nightshade,
Mountain Laurels, rhododendrons, and
REDUCE RISK OF NITRATE POISONING
• Delay harvest or grazing after a drought ending rain
• Split nitrogen applications
• Raise cutting or grazing height
• Test all suspect forages
• Harvest forage as silage
(nitrates are stable in hay)
• Avoid feeding high nitrate forage to susceptible animals
• Limit intake of high nitrate forages
• Healthy animals
• Adequate carbohydrate consumption
REDUCE RISK OF PRUSSIC ACID POISONING
• Avoid grazing young plants and new
• Avoid grazing drought-stressed plants.
• Avoid grazing frosted plants.
• Make sure hay is properly cured before
• Feed green chop in timely manner.
• Feed good quality hay or silage before
grazing questionable forages.
• Use tester animals to evaluate
• Some pasture legumes contain chemicals called
phytoestrogens, which can affect the reproductive system.
• Phytoestrogens have a similar chemical structure to
• Content is high in legumes, including alfalfa, soybeans,
and clovers, red, white and especially subterranean.
• Can cause fertility problems in female ruminants,
especially sheep: infertility, low lambing rates, uterine
prolapse, and dystocia (documented mostly in Australia
with Subterranean clover).
• The advantages of red clover in sheep (and goat) pastures
probably outweighs the risk of their phytoestrogenic
• To err on the side of caution, don’t breed on pastures that
contain too much red or subterranean clover.
• Many plants can be poisonous to sheep, goats,
and other livestock.
• Toxicity depends upon many different factors:
plant, plant part, stage of growth, environmental
conditions, time of year, amount consumed, and
type of livestock (species, age, sex, condition)
• Poisonous/toxic plants can cause sudden death,
photosensitization, and neural symptoms.
• May be cause of unexplained death(s), as most
deaths go undiagnosed.
POISONOUS PLANTS: PREVENTION AND CONTROL
• Learn to identify poisonous plants in your area.
• Inspect for poisonous plants prior to grazing.
• Do not allow hungry or thirsty animals to graze
areas where poisonous plants are known to exist.
• Provide water daily.
• Provide mineral/salt supplementation year-round.
• Eliminate (control) poisonous plants with
herbicides and/or plowing, digging, and mowing
prior to seed maturation.
• If there is enough to eat, livestock will not usually
eat toxic plants.
• Predation accounts for significant losses in the US small
ruminant industry: ~37 percent of total sheep and lamb
losses (APHIS 2004).
• Sheep and goats have many potential predators, including
coyotes, dogs, foxes, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats (lynx),
bears, and various birds of prey (eagles, vultures, owls, and
• According to USDA APHIS, coyotes and dogs account for the
largest percentage of losses.
• Predator risk varies by farm/ranch and geographic area.
All small ruminant farms should have a predator
management plan (before any losses occur).
METHODS OF PREDATOR MANAGEMENT
• Livestock guardians
• Shed lambing
• Night penning
• Fright tactics
• Removing carrion
• Culling old, sick, injured animals.
• Having a good relationship with neighbors,
animal control, DNR, and Wildlife Services.
• Hunting / shooting
You must follow the laws when using any
lethal method of control. Laws vary by state.
Many predators are protected species.
1. Multi-strand, high-tensile electric
2. Woven wire with electric offset or
3. Electric netting
4. Barbed wire
1. Livestock protection dogs:
Cão de Gado Transmontano
FOR LINKS TO RECORDINGS,
AND YOUTUBE VIDEOS, GO TO
Sheep & Goat Specialist
University of Maryland Extension
SMALL RUMINANT PROGRAM