It goes without saying that even good things can become bad if they are excessive. This is especially true in the case of acidosis. Ruminal acidosis is commonly seen in sheep that consume large quantities of grains (or sugar) that are not appropriately adapted.
According to Dr Schabort Froneman of Zoetis, the micro-organisms in the rumen of animals grazing on grasslands, are not adapted to digest energy-rich carbohydrates. “This excess of digestible carbohydrates sets the scene for the wrong type of micro-organisms to proliferate,” he stated.
In cases where acidosis is not treated properly it may lead to several unpleasant consequences.
According to an article by AgriOrbit, lactic acid burns the rumen wall and causes inflammation of the rumen. Consequently the acid is absorbed into the bloodstream, which leads to metabolic acidosis.
“Water from the body also collects in the rumen and can lead to dehydration. Often, rumen motility will stop completely and, along with an increased rate of fermentation in the rumen, will lead to bloating. Adding to the negative effects is the production of an enzyme that breaks down thiamine, leading to vitamin B1 deficiency and nervous system symptoms,” the article stated.
How to treat acidosis
The first step, according to Dr Johan van Rensburg of the ABE Biotech, is to remove your animals from the feed source and to immediately treat your very sick animals with antacid.
“In the initial stage of acidosis, they can be dosed with antacids or magnesium oxide. Although not ideal, bicarbonate of soda (two tablespoons in 200ml of water) can be given as an emergency measure. Activated carbon or PPR powder can also be used. The carbon prevents toxins from being absorbed into the rumen and intestinal tract,” he said.
Penicillin injections will help prevent liver abscesses and vitamin B complex will help support the liver in the processing of acids and toxins, he explained further.
How to manage acidosis
According to an article by Chemuniqué, rapid changes to your animal’s diets are detrimental. Thus, increase the grain content of your grain content gradually over a period of two weeks. It is also important to closely monitor your flock to determine if your sheep are handling the adaptation well. Signs of diarrhoea are an early indication that you are pushing your animals too hard. You can also use feed additives throughout the adaptation period to help prevent the occurrence of acidosis.
Follow these 5 R’s to ensure good feed management and to prevent any further mishaps:
- RIGHT feed
- to the RIGHT pen;
- in the RIGHT amount
- at the RIGHT time;
- in the RIGHT way.