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Legume bloat problems killing cattle in southwest Missouri

Contributed by David Burton Published on 03 May 2016

There has been an unusually high number of bloat problems among cattle in southwest Missouri over the last two or three weeks. According to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension, several cattle deaths have occurred.

"Some of those cattle deaths were posted by veterinarians, and frothy bloat was found to be the cause," said Cole.

Clover is very evident in most pastures this year. This follows a tremendous amount of common white or ladino clover in 2015.

"Some farmers report the clover is so dense it is crowding out their fescue, ryegrass and orchardgrass," said Cole.

Legumes such as ladino are great to blend in cool-season grass pastures, especially those based on toxic Kentucky 31 fescue. Clover helps dilute the toxin intake and provides valuable nitrogen for the grass when it is about 25 to 30 percent of the stand.

Some farmers and extension specialists estimate this year the percent of ladino and white clover approaches 50 percent, even up to 75 percent or more.

"Normally, with the legume in the 30 percent range, bloat is seldom a concern. However, this spring the super abundance of clover may be too much of a good thing," said Cole.

Cow-calf and stocker operators have not all been affected by the bloat concern, according to Cole.

"Anytime death loss occurs, producers become uneasy and fear their herd may be the next one to have a loss," said Cole.

There are precautions to follow that reduce the likelihood of bloating.

Those precautions include filling cattle up with dry grass hay before turning them into a damp, lush pasture with lots of legumes in it.

Keeping dry hay out where cattle will pass by it daily.

Observe cattle regularly and note those that may show bloat symptoms. Some cattle are more susceptible to bloat due to genetics.

Provide poloxalene-containing blocks or feed ahead of turning in to a high-risk pasture and follow instructions closely.

Provide monensin via a supplement; however, do not allow equine access to this feed.

Consider cutting the field for hay if that is an option.

"In spite of these options, there may still be risks, but as warm weather arrives and the clovers become more mature, the risk should subside," said Cole.  end mark

—From University of Missouri Extension news release

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