Abomasal bloat is caused by a build-up of bad bacteria in the stomach (abomasum).
Clostridium perfringins type A and species of Sarcina bacteria have been found in the stomachs of affected animals.
- Occurs most commonly at 2-4 weeks of age.
- Poor hygiene (e.g. when bottles/teats and other milk feeding equipment include automatic feeder hoses are not kept clean). Regardless of milk feeding system, good sanitation is a must for all equipment.
- Cheap or poor-quality milk replacers (milk replacers based on milk proteins - not plant based proteins – are recommended as the protein in skim milk (casein) is slowly released vs. the protein in whey which is fermented more rapidly).
- Clostridial bacteria have been implicated in abomasal bloat so vaccination for clostridial perfringins type C & D is recommended (based on US literature).
- Overfeeding (larger quantities than recommended) or infrequent milk feeding e.g. twice daily.
- Incorrect mixing ratios of the milk replacer. Mix according to label instructions as diluted milk can cause lambs to gorge, especially on automatic feeders.
- Feeding milk that is too hot or cold. Milk replacer should be fed at 38°C. When Sarcina bacteria are present feeding cold milk can help.
- Feeding too rapidly (e.g. when teats are damaged or have a large hole).
Tips for preventing bloat
- Always follow good hygiene practices.
- Avoid overfeeding.
- Add probiotics, ideally from a quality probiotic supplement such as Bio-support to the milk.
- Milk can also be yoghurtised by adding one packet of probiotic natural yoghurt powder to 10L of warm milk. Keep the mix in a bucket with a lid at 38°C (e.g. in hot water cupboard) until the mixture thickens, and then keep in the fridge for up to 7 days. Add this mix to the milk at a ratio of 1:7 (1-part yoghurt to 7-parts milk) and feed cold (room temperature). Yoghurt milk should not be introduced until after 7 days of age.
Treating abomasal bloat
- Contact your vet for further advice.
- Dissolve as much baking soda as possible in 10ml of water and administer orally (e.g. with a syringe). This helps to neutralize the acid.
- Deflation and de-rotation of the abomasum could be attempted by your vet by piercing the abomasum with a needle under local anesthetic.