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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.

Feeding Options For the Dairy Cow

The dairy industry in Kenya is the most developed of the livestock sub-sectors and is relatively well developed compared to other sub-Saharan countries. This industry is dominated by Small-scale farmers. Dairy utilizes pasture more efficiently than other ruminants for production of human food.

Despite the Kenya dairy industry being fairly advanced, average milk production is still below expectation. This is due to various challenges facing the industry. One of these challenges is the lack of adequate feed resources and where available, it is seasonal and quality is poor. This is also coupled with high cost of concentrates as a result of competition with the human population since these are derived from human food.

Many small-scale dairy farmers struggle to identify the correct feeds to give to their cows. Other potential investors in this business hold back from venturing into dairying because they lack ideas as to what feeds to use. This is despite the fact that many feed resources are naturally available and only little effort is needed to obtain them. In this post, we’re going to look at some of the local and readily available feeding options you can utilize to start or further develop your dairy business.

Forage Feeding

These are mainly green feeds such as Napier grass, Lucerne and sweet potato vines among others. All forages should be chopped and fed in feeding troughs to avoid feed wastage. Forage have a total crude fibre (CF) of more than18%. They have low nutrient density and usually have low digestibility except for the lush young forage. Crude protein in forages is variable with a range of 2-4% in straws to 20% in legumes such as lucerne. Mineral content (Ca, Mg, K high, P may be limited) also varies from good to poor.

Other forages include: oats, sugarcane, sorghum and brassicas.


Straw refers to the agricultural byproduct consisting of the dry stalks of cereal plants after the grain and chaff have been removed. These include materials such as wheat straw, rice straw and maize Stover. It is recommended that these are first soaked in water and molasses to soften them before being fed to cows. A cow should be given about 40-70 kg of straw daily.


Ration or better known as Total Mixed Ration or simply TMR refers to a feeding system in which weighing and blending all feedstuffs is done to come up with a complete ration with balanced and containing high nutrients. In this system cows are fed based on production for the milking herd and growth rate required for young stock, growth rate and fat deposition for the beef animals. It has several advantages over the adlib non planned feeding system; among these are:

  • Minimizes wastage, enhances voluntary feed intake,
  • All feeds roughage and concentrate are mixed together allowing no selection,
  • Feeding done with an aim of meeting specific needs,
  • Grain mixture can be liberally fed without fear of grain overload,
  • Its’ cheap in relation to feeding labour cost
  • It’s possible to estimate the feeds requirement etc.

Dairy cattle ration should contain 70% energy source, 30% protein source and required minerals.


Concentrates are rich in nutrients (energy and/or protein) and provide far more nutrients than an equivalent weight of roughage. They are low in fibre and usually have higher dry matter content. Their production entails processing of raw feed materials. Energy concentrates are prepared from materials such as Cereal grains and by-products such as maize, wheat, barley and cane molasses; Root crops, such as potato and cassava; and fats and oils. Protein concentrates are usually plant derived from soya residue, sunflower, cottonseed, groundnut and leguminous seeds. They can also be animal protein derived from fish, meat, blood, milk products and poultry waste.

Concentrates should always be given to lactating cows especially during milking. Dried off cows and heifers should be given concentrates beginning 2 months before calving.

To Better settle with the best feed for your dairy cow. Consider consulting your veterinarian. This will go far in ensuring the success of your dairy business.