Managing the occurrence of acidosis in cattle

Cocky Mokoka, an award-winning farmer in Gauteng, works in alignment with the natural environment in everything he does on his farm. He farms with sunflower, soybeans, maize and cattle. His meat can be found in supermarkets and butcheries because of his commitment to not use any growth hormones.

Thanks to his love for nature Mokoka adopted conservation farming methods such as crop rotation. “We are not looking after the health of our soil like we should, we should all adopt conservation farming principles as it will create a more sustainable industry,” he said during an interview with Angie Khumalo, host of African Farming. She visited him in the third episode of the television show (channel 163).

Khumalo talked about Mokoka’s farming methods with Dr Thapelo Makae, veterinarian at Elanco, to enquire whether he has some valuable advice to offer.

“Personally, I think what he is doing deserves a big applause,” said Dr Makae.

“Many farmers forget the importance of sustainable farming and managing their land. Soil plays an important role in farming effectively, especially in taking care of the animals that are fed from the land. When Mokoka is taking care of his soil by adding manure and other nutritional additives, he is investing in his cattle’s nutrition.”

Dr Makae also noticed that Mokoka let his cattle eat the maize residues after harvesting.

“Although it is a practice widely used, I’d be careful of using this feeding method. Ruminants, such as cattle and sheep, love maize and if a farmer leaves them in the fields for too long, they will consume too much of it. This can cause serious health issues like acidosis.”

Acidosis occurs when ruminants consume too much grain. The grain then releases carbohydrates into the animal’s rumen. Rather than being digested normally it rapidly ferments. This causes bacteria in the rumen to produce lactic acid, resulting in acidosis, slowing of the gut, dehydration and often death. Eating more grain than what they are able to digest can affect cattle, sheep and goats of all ages. When this happens, animals have a depressed demeanour, lying down more often. They might also develop diarrhoea and become dehydrated and bloated. If this occurs it is best to consult a veterinarian for a treatment plan.

According to Dr Makae, acidosis is an infection of the animal’s intestines and can inhibit its ability to absorb the necessary nutrients in order to gain weight.

“The animal can become bloated or have foam in its stomach. It might even kill the animal because he eventually suffocates.”

He urged Mokoka to make sure his cattle also have access to feed, such as grass, to supplement his herd’s ration.

For information: e-mail Dr Makae,

share this