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Unusual Behaviour And Deaths In Cattle

10 June 2020

Over the last couple of days there have been several reports of dairy cows eating soil and of deaths in young suckled calves from twisted guts etc.  While we only know of a few cases, their cause is difficult to explain.  One possibility is that with the drought grass is likely to have high levels of sugar and of course very rapid growth once it rains.

In these situations it is sensible to offer a bale of clean straw ad-lib through a ring feeder to grazing stock.  We would expect all groups to eat some straw which will help slow the rate of passage of the grass and, by increasing their intake of long fibre, significantly reduce any digestive upsets such as acidosis.

Hence our advice to everyone is to put out a clean bale of straw to all grazing stock and monitor how quickly it disappears.  For example for spring calving cows and calves “normal” intakes might be around 2 ½ kg of straw per day meaning a 4 foot round bale should last a group of 35 cows and calves for 2 days.  If the group are eating a lot more than this then seek nutritional help.

Basil Lowman,

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