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Get a Handle on Feedlot Acidosis

Acidosis is one of the most costly problems in the feedlot.

Acidosis is one of the most costly problems in the feedlot. Acidosis is also known as bloat, founder, or sticking an animal. Acute acidosis is easily identifiable in the feedlot whereas subacute acidosis normally goes unnoticed. Hallmarks of acute acidosis are a high left side, long toes, poor doing calves, and sudden death. The immediate symptoms are watery stools with white residue after it dries, increased rate of respiration, standing in water, rocking back and forth due to sore feet, kicking the belly, going off feed, and in extreme cases, death.

Subacute acidosis is usually not penwide, so the pen of cattle will continue to eat. However, there will be individuals that are off feed or have lower intakes resulting in low pen intakes, causing gains to be less than expected. Subacute acidosis symptoms are slightly depressed pen intakes, loose stools and a tight left side. Subacute acidosis is quite common in the feedlot industry because ruminants are not adapted to consuming high-grain finishing diets. Rather, calves must learn how much, how fast, and how often to eat without becoming acidotic. The biggest challenge associated with subacute acidosis is that it is not easily detectable, yet it is quite costly due to performance losses.

There are several different causes of acidosis. The first is changing from a high roughage diet to a high concentrate diet too quickly. This is the reason why we use a series of step-up diets consisting of a Starter, Grower 1, Grower 2, Finisher 1, and Finisher 2. Each diet is to be fed three to five days at minimum. This gives the rumen bacteria (bugs) time to adapt to the higher concentrate diet and prevents the bacteria from producing too much lactic acid during fermentation (digestion) of the feed.

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