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My Cow Eats Plastic Bags

Why do cows eat plastics?
  • Pica – due to mineral deficiency
  • Predisposing factors in the environment where the cow searches for feed in garbage or left to graze in towns and dump sites where plastics bag are at their disposal
  • Out of curiosity
Sources of plastics in the farm
  • General household waste
  • Plastic material is blown over by the wind
  • Plastic wrapping materials for feeds and mineral supplements
  • Plastic ropes and wraps for hay bales and silage
What you will see when your cow has eaten plastics
  1. The cow progressively becomes weak and sluggish
  2. The cow loses appetite and may go off-feed
  3. The cow frequently experiences bloat due to blockage.
  4. The animal experiences polydipsia and frequently drinks a lot of water.
  5. The cow gradually loses body condition and in turn, loses productivity and eventually may die.
What should you do then?

There is currently no available chemical that can be used to get rid of the plastic in the stomach. However;

the most effective, and sure, way is by physical removal by surgery done by a veterinarian.

Prevention & Control
  • Providing proper and sufficient mineral supplementation
  • Ensuring that the surrounding is clean and free of plastics
  • See to it that all plastic feed wrappings and hay bale ropes are properly disposed of.


Factors Influencing Milk Yield in Cattle

Milk yield varies from cow to cow, or farm to farm. There is a multiplicity of factors that may work individually or synergistic to others to influence the volume of milk produced. Some cows produce small, others average while other very high volume. Milk yield like other performances of the cow are influenced by factors which may be environmental, managerial or cow factors. In this post, we discuss the various influences to milk yield, and possibly show you what things to consider in your choice of or management of dairy cows.

1. Breed

The milk yield varies from breed to breed. Exotic cattle breeds like the Holstein/Friesian cows produces is greatly more than the quantity of milk indigenous cattle like the White Fulani cows produces. This is one of the most important factors that affect milk yield. Animals belonging to dairy breeds produce more milk compared to dual purpose breed.

2. Individualism of the cow

Individual cows within breeds produce varying quantities of milk influenced by their peculiarlity. Generally, animals with a huge body built produce more milk than smaller ones. Cows normally will not secrete more milk daily than the equivalent of 8-10 percent of their body weight.

3. Stage and Persistency of Lactation

Different cows take varying times to reach peak milk production. Persistence refers to how long the cow maintains almost constant yield following peak in production. There is considerable variation in the persistence of milk secretion following peak production within 2 months after lactation. Some cows are very persistent and their rate of milk secretion declines slowly (6-8 percent of their previous month). The production of other cows may decline very rapidly (8-l2 percent) so that they show poor persistence.

4. Frequency of Milking

As milk accumulates in the lumen of the alveoli and fills the storage areas of the udder, pressure develops inside those areas. This tends gradually to inhibit further milk secretion. The more frequent removal of milk permits maximum intensity of the milk manufacturing process. Therefore, frequent evacuation of the udder is essential for maximum milk production. It has been shown that milking cows three times a day increases milk production 10-25 percent over two-times daily milking. Milking four times a day instead of three results is another 5-15 percent increase in production.

5. Stage in Gestation

During the first 5 months of pregnancy, the decline in milk yield in pregnant cows is similar to the equivalent lactation period in non-pregnant cows. However, following the fifth month of pregnancy, cows begin to decline more rapidly in milk yield.

The average gestation period of dairy cows is 283 days. The aim is to have each cow mated about 85 days after calving. If mated earlier than 85 days, the total yield for the lactation is reduced as in this case after about 20th week of pregnancy milk yield will start falling more rapidly.

A significant reduction of milk yield occurs towards the end of pregnancy. Although the exact reason is not yet known but according to one hypothesis it has been suggested that level of nutrient required for foetal development are highest; however, this appears to be only 1-2 percent of the daily requirement of the cow. Another convincing explanation is that of a change in hormone production, in which large amounts of estrogen and progesterone are released into the bloodstream, which is detrimental to high milk yield. During fourth to fifth months of gestation, there is an increase of SNF (Solid Non-Fat).

6. Age of the Cow

It is believed that there is a slight additional growth of secreting cells of dairy cattle during each pregnancy until cows reach about 7 years of age. This is manifested by- the increase in yearly milk. However, milk production also rescinds in older cows as other factors related to age set in.

7. Dry period

Cows are normally bred 70 to 90 days (average of 85 days) after parturition. It is expected that they will lactate about 305 days and then be given a 60-day dry period before the next calving.

The dry period is important for replenishing body supplies including regeneration of secretory tissue. Allowing dairy cows a dry period has been shown to result in significantly higher production during the succeeding lactation.

8. Temperature and Humidity

Severe weather conditions drastically affect milk production. Temperatures between 10-22°C have no effect on the milk production. In this range (Comfort Zone), no body processes are directly involved in maintaining body temperature. At a very high temperature, feed consumption is greatly reduced, there is an increase in water intake, an increase in body temperature and respiration resulting in a decrease in milk yield with lowered milk fat, SNF and total solids. High relative humidity accentuates the problem of high temperatures.

9. Feed

The speed of synthesis and diffusion of various milk constituents is dependent on the concentration of milk precursors in blood, which reflects the quality and quantity of the food supply. Nature provides for maintenance, growth, and reproductive needs before energy that is made available for lactation.

Inadequate feed nutrients probably limit the secretion of milk more than any other single factor in a dairy cow. Although good nutrition alone cannot guarantee high milk production, poor nutrition can prevent attainment, of a cow’s full potential just as surely as poor management, low genetic potential in an unfavorable environment. The maintenance of lactation (galactopoiesis) is closely related to an adequate feed intake by the lactating animal.

10. Stress

Recently, more attention has been focused on the role of stress in the secretion of milk. As animals are selected to secrete higher levels of milk, any sort of stress will play an increasingly important role in lactation.

11. Milking Process

The amount of milk drawn from a cow is definitely influenced by the change of milker. Due to change of milker, the slight variation in milking process upsets the cow and thereby affects milk yield.

12. Disease

Diseases may significantly reduce the amount of milk secreted. Disease may affect heart rate, and therefore, the rate of blood circulation through the mammary gland, which influences milk secretion is also affected.


It is expected that as you read through the post you were able to pick up certain factors that you would use while choosing a dairy cow. We expect that you greatly benefit from this write up, by pick up the things that you as the farmer can influence to ensure that your cows produce higher volumes of milk, which in turn means more sales and increased income – Money for the Farmer!


Also known as choke or ruminal tympany, bloat refers to gas distension of the fore-stomachs (rumen and reticulum) of the cow. This condition is a very common encounter among herds in Kenya and occurs in two forms, either in the form of a persistent foam mixed with the ruminal contents called primary or frothy bloat, or in the form of free-gas separated from the ingesta called secondary or free-gas bloat.

Primary/frothy bloat

This form of bload is caused by the entrapment of the normal gases of fermentation in a stable foam. The coalescence of the small gas bubbles trapped in the igesta is inhibited and the pressure in the rumen increases because eructation does not occur. Certain plant substances such as Alfafa hay, legumes or vegetables (such as kale & turnips), and finely ground grain, have been shown to be primary foaming agents and initiate the process.

This kind of bloat is most common in animals grazing legume or legume-dominant pastures and it occurs when cattle are placed on lush pastures, particularly those dominated by rapidly growing leguminous plants in the vegetative and early bud stages, but can also be seen when high-quality hay is fed.

Free-gas/ Secondary bloat

This form of bload results from physical obstruction to eructation occuring from the esophageal region. Obstruction may be caused by a foreign body (eg, potatoe, avocado seed etc.), stenosis or pressure from an enlargement outside pressing on the oesophagus such as from tuberculous, lymphadenitis or bovine viral leukosis.

Other causes of free-gas bloat include: Obstruction of the cardia, interference with nerve functions/pathways involved in the eructation reflex such as vagus nerve, diaphragmatic hernia.

However, chronic ruminal tympany is relatively frequent in calves up to 6 months old without apparent cause; this form usually resolves on it’s own.

Signs of bloat

The following findings are seen on bloated cows:

Primary bloat

  1. Depressed milk yield
  2. Sudden distension of rumen
  3. Distension of left paralumbar fossa and abdomen
  4. Discomfort and animal may lie or stand frequently
  5. Belly kicking and rolling
  6. Frequent urination and defecation
  7. Protrusion of tongue and mouth breathing
  8. Vomiting may occur
  9. Dyspnea and grunting
  10. Respiration rate increases up to 60/min
  11. Rumen movements decrease and stops in severe cases
  12. If severity continues, animal collapses and dies

Secondary bloat

  1. Increased frequency and strength of rumination
  2. Tympanic resonance
  3. Distension of rumen and left paralumbar fossa.


  • Avoid feeding or grazing high-risk plants such as legumes or clovers. If feeding is necessary, ensure a slow transition and always ill cattle with a high dry matter feed such as straw prior to grazing. Do not overfeed inely ground grain or other highly fermentable carbohydrates.
  • Continually administer an antifoaming agent during the risk period. This may be done by praying pastures with antifoaming agents – oils and fats or by adding antifoaming agent in feed or water.
  • Avoid feeding apples, potatoes, or feedstufs that can lodge in the esophagus and block eructation.
  • Prevent infections with bovine respiratory disease complex, bovine leukemia virus, and tuberculosis.

East Coast Fever (ECF)

East Coast fever (ECF) is a tick-transmitted protozoan disease of cattle characterized by high fever, dyspnea , lymphadenopathy and high mortalities. It affects cattle in East and Central Africa, particularly in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Malawi.


The disease causing agent, Theileria parva is an apicomplex protozoan parasite. Classic East Coast Fever occurs in East Africa and is associated with T. parva transmitted from cattle to cattle by the brown ear tick, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus. ECF also occurs either as Corridor disease in eastern and southern Africa or as January disease in central Africa.


ECF affects mainly cattle but also buffalo, and occurs in countries in eastern, central, and southern Africa. Its occurrence is related to the distribution of the vector tick which has been recorded from large areas extending from southern Sudan in the north to western Zambia and eastern Zaire in the west, and to Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the south.

The disease is prevalent throughout the wetter areas favoring the development of the tick, but is absent from the wet highlands in the horn of Africa. It has been eradicated from southern Africa up to the Zambezi River. The endemic scenarios range from a stable situation with high prevalence of herd infection but low fatality rates (endemic stability), to a low prevalence/high fatality scenario (endemic instability).

Endemic stability develops in indigenous zebu cattle exposed to constant tick challenge as in wetter areas whereas endemic instability is seen with commercial production systems utilizing imported breeds or crossbreeds and in areas with a unimodal rainfall pattern that restricts tick activity. Epidemics occur when there is a breakdown in tick control especially during the rainy season or when susceptible animals are introduced into an endemic area.


The vector of ECF is Rhipicephalus appendiculatus and in the field, the disease occurs only where this tick is found, save for Corridor disease which may be transmitted by R. zambeziensis. Other species of Rhipicephalus and Hyalomma spp. can transmit ECF experimentally, but they are not significant.

Economic Importance

ECF has a major impact on cattle production in eastern, central, and southern Africa. The disease is cause for death of large heads of cattle. Serious losses occur in exotic and indigenous cattle, mainly from reduced production of milk and meat due to morbidity and mortality, as well as from the heavy costs incurred in implementing effective tick control.

Clinical Signs

The first clinical signs of ECF in cattle appear 7 to 15 days following the attachment of infected ticks. These signs include:

  • Generalized lymphadenopathy involving superficial subcutaneous lymph nodes such as the parotid, prescapular and prefemoral lymph nodes.
  • One or 2 days later, there is fever, depression, anorexia, and a drop in milk in dairy animals. In later stages, there may be nasal and ocular discharges, dyspnea, generalized lymph node enlarge­ ment, and splenomegaly. In severe cases, cliarrhea occurs, sometimes with dysentery; but usually only late in the course of the disease. Emaciation, weakness, and recumbency lead to death from asphyxia in 7-10 days.
  • Terminally, there is often a frothy nasal discharge. Occasional cases of brain involvement occur and are characterized by circling, hence ‘turning sickness’ or cerebral theileriosis.

Differential Diagnoses

  1. Corridor disease
  2. Mediterranean or tropical theileriosis
  3. Heartwater
  4. Trypanosomosis
  5. Babesiosis
  6. Anaplasmosis,
  7. Malignant catarrhal fever


  • Vaccination-Animals are inoculated with a potentially lethal dose of infective sporozoite stabilate prepared from ticks and treated either simultaneously with a drug.
  • Vector control using acaricides-Organochlorides, organophosphorus , Synthetic pyrethroids and Amitraz, are applied in dips, spray races, or by hand spraying.

Always Contact your veterinarian whenever your identify abnormal behavior in your cows. Timely consultation and prompt treatment ultimately influences the prognosis.