The 3 greatest Myths in Ruminant Animal nutrition in Ireland part 2


In this series of articles I’d like to go into detail about the three greatest myths in animal nutrition that I deal with on a daily basis. Using my own experience as part of the Crecora Mills Animal Nutrition team and from other nutritionists based both in this country and abroad here is a broad outline of how we can save you money and increase your animals performance.

Our aim is to explain the Myths, and show you how to prevent them from happening and how to fix them if they do happen.

Myth number 2: Acidosis…Heartburn for cows!


Why do I need to know about Acidosis?

Acidosis will cause your animals to

  • Can cause serious health problems and can be fatal.
  • Will cause a big drop in performance in terms of Milk and beef production.
  • Causes Lameness and sore feet
  • Causes Animal to become loose and cannot process any feed correctly
  • Will cost you a lot of time and money to remedy

To explain what it is and how we can prevent it lets start at the beginning. Our ruminant animals are a wonderful high performing animal that can take in large amounts of forage and process this into useable energy for meat or milk production. They can do this by having 4 separate stomachs to break down hard to digest fibrous material such as grass into amino acids that the animal can utilise. Single stomach animals (monogastrics) such as humans and pigs are not capable of this efficiency from this kind of diet. We need our food very easy to digest so it must be ground or processed first.

Our Beef and Dairy cattle have four distinct stomachs

  1. The Rumen
  2. The Reticulum
  3. The Omasum
  4. The Abomasum

Of the four stomachs in the ruminant animal then one we are mostly concerned with is the Rumen. This is a very large stomach up to 50 gallons in capacity that acts as a mixing and fermenting vat for the animal to begin the process of breaking down fibrous materials such as grass and silage. Its functions are Storage, soaking physical mixing of roughages and to provide a stable environment for the good bacteria and protozoa. A modern cow is actually pretty much a walking stomach. The Rumen unlike our human acidic stomachs is designed to operate best at a more neutral PH level. It is not an acidic environment. The billions of microscopic bugs that live in the rumen that help in the breakdown of fodder will not survive in an acidic environment.

Knowing the importance of the rumen and the huge role it plays in animal performance we understand that keeping this Rumen working at an optimum level is vital for the production and good health of the animal we are feeding.


So what about this acidosis that I keep hearing about?


What we as farmers call acidosis is when the ph level of the rumen falls to a more acidic level and our animals health and digestion is affected negatively as a result. Loss of performance, bad health, lameness and poor profitability are caused by Acidosis.

Common causes of Acidosis in Ireland.

  1. Second rotation grass.  This is an annual occurrence that affects every farmer to a greater or lesser extent. Cows in late spring are coming from eating more stemmy grass that has been growing since the previous autumn (6 months) and are released into a field with leafy lush grass that they previously grazed a few weeks previously. We are asking the animal to change from eating this fibrous, hard to digest stemmy grass to this lovely lush grass which is rapidly fermentable in the rumen. The grass goes through the animal too fast as it has less fibrous material in it and the PH in the rumen drops killing a lot of the billions of good bugs in the rumen.
  2. Cereal content in the diet. Some cereals are very fast to breakdown in the Rumen being rapidly fermentable such as wheat. If you are feeding too much of these in the diet too fast then Acidosis is inevitable.
  3. Feeding too much, too fast. Generally I see this when our farmers get a bad spell of weather and bring in animals and increases feeding overnight. Changing the level of feed very fast can cause Acidosis but thankfully this is less of a problem when farmers are using our feed as I will explain below.
  4. Feed management. You will get away with feeding large amounts of cereals ad lib for a certain length of time if you have good access to lots of clean water, lots of space in the holding facilities, a consistent feed in front of the animals at all times and you don’t push it for longer that 70 to 100 days. After this performance will drop off and acidosis is inevitable.
  5. Big Changes in diet. On farms where diets are changed very regularly this can lead to problems with Acidosis. The bugs in the Rumen develop to digest one diet when the diet is changed again and a different set of bugs is needed to digest the new diet.
  6. Lack of clean Water. Ruminant animals can produce up to 100 litres of saliva a day. This acts as a buffer agent in the rumen to aid digestion and prevent acidosis. To do this they need a lot of clean water to produce this saliva.

Crecora Mills Tips on how to prevent Acidosis.

  1. When going into second rotation grass offer a bale of straw or hay to the animals also to boost their fibre intake on lush fresh grass. Not all the animals will need it but those with acidosis will naturally eat it those that are ok will not bother with it. Commonly done on the way out of or into the parlour in dairy herds. Very easy to do, costs very little but hugely effective.
  2. Avoid high cereals such as wheat in the diet. We use mostly Maize and barley in our feeds as these are slower to break down in the rumen, especially maize.
  3. Feed a buffering agent as part of the diet. Most of our premium feeds such as Dairy Max, Dairy MaxGrass, Beef Elite, Hi Maize Beef finisher and CalfMax etc contain this as standard.
  4. Feed an active yeast in the diet to reduce air in the rumen thereby boosting fermentation efficiency. We include this as standard again in our Dairy Max and Beef finishing and calf feeds.
  5. Ensure Animals have access to lots of clean water. The rule of thumb is if you would not drink it, then it’s not good enough for your animals.
  6. try to introduce changes to the diets as gradually as possible and if increasing feed levels do it on a phased basis over a few weeks if possible.
  7. Always consider having access to a good fibre source for all animals such as hay or straw. Those that need it will eat it.

Thankfully Acidosis is not nearly as much of a problem as it could be with our customers due to the effectiveness of our Rumen Buffer pack which contains an active yeast. Even in times of fodder shortages our customers were able to feed very high levels of our Dairy and Beef feeds to their animals with no real problems.  If you are running into trouble with acidosis give us a call and we will help you as best we can with no obligation.

We are here to Help

Paul O’Connell


Crecora Mills

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