Battling HBS in dairy cattle

An animal health specialist says the increasing occurrence of hemorrhagic bowel syndrome (HBS) in dairy cattle is a growing concern for the industry.   

Dr. Scott Bascom is a dairy technology manager for Phibro Animal Health.  “One of the things that they discovered was a mold called aspergillus fumigatus was a common thread through these herds that experienced this syndrome,” he says.  He says around 81 percent of cows that died of HBS were aspergillus fumigatus positive. 

Bascom says HBS is unpredictable and fatal, and producers can take preventative steps to protect their herds. “Do all that they can at harvest with packing their silos, getting the air out, using a good forage preservation strategy to minimize the growth of all the molds,” he says.  “Including aspergillus fumigatus.”  Beyond that, he says producers should also consider strategies that promote healthy immune functions in cows and reduce the growth of the fungus after the feed is mixed.  He says OmniGen is a product that has been proven to do both. 

He tells Brownfield high producing cows are often at risk.  “These really high-producing cows that are making high levels of milk, they are metabolizing a lot of nutrients,” he says.  “And they are just much more susceptible to immune suppression.”

Bascom says most cases of HBS are diagnosed following a necropsy, but warning signs can include dehydration and decreased feed intake.  Cows can also experience decreased milk production, colic, and decreased rumen motility.

AUDIO: Dr. Scott Bascom, Phibro Animal Health

  • I sometimes use a dilute solution of potassoum bicarbonate sprayed lightly to inhibit mold and fungal growth. I live in Hawaii where it is always wet and humid and this treatment works really well. It reduces acidity which inhibits growth and aflatoxin production by some aspergillus species. Although I do not raise dairy cows, I am suggesting that small amounts of potassium bicarbonate may have a beneficial use with mold and fungal growth on feed stored in silos and possibly added to the water that the dairy cows drink. With the complex digestive tracts of dairy cows there may exist conditions especially with heavy feeders where the acid ph becomes excessive and becomes irritating to the gut wall and at the same time encourages the production of aflatoxin by aspergillas sp. Aflatoxin in sufficient amounts might explain the sudden deaths of otherwise heallthy cows.

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