Subacute rumen acidosis: consequences and measures for preventing SARA

As with many other diseases, it is better to prevent SARA than to have to cure it. The basis for preventing hyperacidity in the rumen and its secondary problems is ruminant-friendly feeding. The consequences are often difficult to predict but can be detrimental both for the animal and in terms of economic success.

In this article, we look at measures for preventing SARA and the consequences of this disease. Additionally, it is also described in detail how helpful the smaXtec system is in the detection, prevention and treatment of subacute rumen acidosis.

Measures to prevent and take in cases of suspected SARA

Prophylaxis is essential for subacute rumen acidosis as individual treatment is rarely necessary. Most of the time, subacute rumen acidosis is caused by feeding errors. Therefore, it is essential to regularly check feeding and to consider some of the following key points:

  • Division of daily quantity of concentrated feed into several parts
  • Checking the amount of concentrated feed per cow per day and adjusting it to milk yield
  • Avoiding high levels of rapidly degrading cereal starch
  • Usage of buffering substances, e.g. sodium bicarbonate, in starchy rations
  • Checking of fiber content and digestibility in all feed
  • Attention to overly fast feeding of freshly lactating cows
  • Enabling permanent access to forage (such as hay and silage) [1] [2]

However, ruminant-friendly feeding is a huge challenge, especially with milk production of above 45 liters a day. A good feeding concept and management is necessary. An optimal ration design and feeding technique is understood to mean that the animals are adequately supplied with crude fiber. In addition, the limit value of slightly soluble carbohydrates (sugar, starch maximum 25% in the dry matter) must be observed. [2]

The pH values ​​measured by smaXtec pH Plus provide information about feeding. The farmer can thereby improve and optimize his feeding management. In addition, the bolus provides assistance in designing needs-based rations. Particularly useful is the pH value measurement during ration conversions and feed selection.

Consequences and sequelae of SARA

The consequences of subacute rumen acidosis are usually difficult to estimate and detect because they may appear with a time delay (e.g. lameness as a result of laminitis) or are a part of a disease complex (e.g. metabolic disorders.) Under no circumstances are the economic losses caused by this disease to be underestimated.

Subacute rumen acidosis has a negative impact on the health and performance of dairy cows. [2]For example, a reduction in feed efficiency of about 10 % is to be expected. Reasons for this are lower energy expenditure and lower formation of protein in the rumen. In addition, the increased formation of propionic acid leads to a drop in milk fat content and obesity in the animals. [4]

The sequelae of SARA include:

  • Rumen ulcers/inflammation of the rumen mucous membrane: transfer of acids and toxins/pathogens into the bloodstream
  • Formation of liver abscesses
  • Laminitis and sole ulcers
  • Lameness
  • Ketosis [4]
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Higher incidence of infectious diseases such as mastitis or uterine infections [3]

Although it is difficult to prove individual cases, due to the central role of the rumen in bovine metabolism, SARA affects the overall health of the animals. [3]

It is difficult to estimate the financial impact of rumen acidosis, but feeding costs are expected to be around 30 cents per 100 kilograms of milk due to a reduction in feed efficiency. In addition, as a result of increased lameness, metabolic diseases and infections, losses totalling € 1.00 to € 2.00 per 100 kg of milk may occur. [3]

smaXtec and SARA

The smaXtec system is particularly helpful for early detection of SARA. With the help of the bolus, unfalsified data are collected, which provide direct information about feeding management and rumen health. smaXtec analyzes the pH in the reticulum and provides the farmer with indications of an increased risk of rumen acidosis.

Farmers receive “Risk of SARA” alerts, which inform them of animals having been found to have an increased risk of acidosis in the last 24 hours. The smaXtec Messenger dashboard also shows how many or which animals are at risk of developing acidosis. This allows the farmer to intervene at an early stage and to avoid negative disease progression.

Here is an example of a graph of a cow with acidosis risk as identified by smaXtec pH Plus.

Screenshot of an example curve detecting SARA

The red curve represents activity, the blue curve the temperature and the green curve the pH value. smaXtec sent an alert indicating increased acidosis risk because the pH has repeatedly dropped below 5.8.






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