Diagnostic Guidance: Rumen Acidosis (Grain Overload)
Guy Sheppard, DVM
Grain is certainly an important feedstuff for livestock, but it can also be deadly if not fed correctly. Grains are rich in carbohydrates and provide energy for the animals consuming them. Commonly fed grains include corn, milo, grain sorghum, oats, wheat, and barley. The carbohydrates in grain are metabolized to produce energy, which is especially lacking in forages during the winter months, and is vital for growth, reproduction, and lactation.
However, as with most things, too much of a good thing can be harmful. Ruminant animals that have not been fed grain on a regular basis should not consume more than 50% of their ration as grain. Roughage should make up the remainder of the ration. If ruminant animals consume larger quantities of grain without being gradually acclimated to it, severe consequences can occur.
Depending on the amount of grain consumed, bloat, inappetence, diarrhea, laminitis, and even death are possible. Animals displaying signs of illness after excess grain consumption should receive veterinary care on an urgent basis.
Diagnosis of rumen acidosis, or grain overload, is made by evaluation an animal’s history combined with laboratory findings of abnormal rumen pH and the presence of greater than normal quantities of grain in the rumen contents.
The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) offers testing to evaluate the pH levels in an animal’s rumen, along with other tests that may be helpful in evaluating an animal’s nutrition levels.
TVMDL also offers several ruminant diagnostic plans based on various clinical signs and conditions. Visit tvmdl.tamu.edu or call one of the agency’s full-service laboratories in College Station or Canyon for more information on testing.