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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.

Easy Ways To Efficiently Feed A Donkey

The donkey is one of the most popular of working animals in Africa, and perhaps the most important working animal in Kenya. Other working animals in the country include the ox and the camel, but these are not common as the donkey. Many people of almost all communities in Kenya own donkeys, which they use particularly for transportation of goods, farm produce and other items. In the farming sector, of particular importance, the small scale farmers rely heavily upon the donkey for transporting farm inputs and produce, pastures harvested for other livestock at home, fetching water for domestic use as well as firewood.

Among the pastoralist communities, the donkey is extremely important most especially to the women. Women stay at home as they watch the children while the men move with their livestock in search for pasture. Women use the donkey while going to fetch water and firewood over long distances. This makes the donkey a darling to them.

There is no doubt that the donkey is a very important animal helping sustain the livelihoods of a majority of the Kenyan population. However, there are concerns about how this important animal is treated and kept. Many people do not really care about the health and well-being of the donkey. This beast is often found wounded by whipping as their owners push them to work extra harder for extra ordinary results. This in turn lead to infections through wounds, traumatic injuries and sometimes death. This in turn affects the productivity of the animal and ultimately the livelihoods of many.

This post is particularly put down to inform on how best to keep your donkey healthy and happy. It’s important that close attention is paid to what the donkey is fed to ensure it is healthy and energetic so you rip the most benefits out of your donkey.

Donkey Nutrition

Donkey feeding and nutrition is one of those grey areas that leave owners groping in darkness because they do not know what to really feed their donkeys and there is very little information out there on this matter.

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One of the things that makes donkeys desirable for packing and pulling is their ability to survive on less food than camels and oxen. Donkeys seldom overeat but they can still become overweight. Most donkeys do fine on a good-quality hay or pasture and need their diets supplemented with grain only when working hard or being shown. The recommended ration of grain:hay is 4:5 for a working donkey. Water should be provided in plenty. This is the most important nutrient for the donkey.

Feding Options

For most donkeys, straw should form the majority of the diet. Straw should ideally be fed at floor level. It should be freely available at all times for animals with good dentition. Straw provides fiber and limited nutrients to the diet but might need supplementation to optimize protein and vitamin and mineral levels within the diet.

We recommend feeding good quality barley straw to donkeys with good teeth as it is high in fiber and low in sugar, and closely resembles what a donkey would eat in the wild. Constant access to straw will allow a donkey to eat to appetite without consuming too many calories and therefore risking putting on excess weight; excess weight carries associated risks such as laminitis.

Oat straw might be useful for old or underweight donkeys with good teeth as this usually has a slightly higher nutritional value than barley straw. Wheat straw is very fibrous and has lower energy values, but may be fed to young, healthy donkeys with good teeth.

Hay and haylage
Donkeys might require dietary supplementation with hay or haylage during when pregnant, lactating or growing, in order to supply extra energy. Hay or haylage for donkeys must be selected carefully as forage made for other livestock is often too rich and might lead to dietary upset or laminitis. Hay or haylage should be late-cut, high in fiber and low in sugar, and will be visibly coarse. Donkeys are able to thrive on hay or haylage with low-energy and high-fiber levels, but physical quality should not be compromised on.

Note: Silage is not suitable for feeding to donkeys because the moisture level is usually too high and it has a low pH and low fiber and high protein levels.

Basic tips to feeding donkeys

  • Feed little and often, and keep feeding times regular.
  • Any change in the feeding regime must always be carried out gradually — over two or three weeks.
  • Always feed according to the donkeys’ age, weight and temperament.
  • Avoid dusty or mouldy feeds.
  • Always provide plenty of clean drinking water available.
  • Access to an equine salt or mineral lick is advisable. We recommend Maclik Mineral Brick from Cooper K-Brands