Defined as an excessive amount of gas in the first compartment of the ruminant stomach. Left untreated it can decrease feed intake and milk production, and can cause great discomfort and even death in goats.

Bloat can be caused by an obstruction in the esophagus by a solid object that prevents the release of gas produced in the rumen during normal fermentation. More commonly though, bloat occurs when the gas produced by fermentation is greater than the gas expelled through the mouth. This often happens when goats eat different plants in different pastures; graze in damp, lush, legume pastures with forage like alfalfa; eat a large quantity of feed at once; or eat too quickly.

The most obvious sign is swelling on the left side of the animal. Goats will quit eating, become restless and sometimes salivate excessively. Goats in pain will gnash their teeth and kick their legs out. Breathing may become difficult since the rumen presses on the lungs and eventual respiratory failure can follow.

Bloat caused by an obstruction in the esophagus can sometimes be corrected by massaging the foreign object towards the stomach. For other, more complex factors, a defoaming treatment can be given by drenching with vegetable or mineral oil. Contact your veterinarian for proper treatment.

Bloat can be controlled with good management practices. Care should be given to prevent goats from eating too much lush, green pasture, especially legume pasture such as clover and alfalfa, in a short time.

Although alfalfa is a highly palatable roughage and an excellent source of protein and calcium, a little goes a long way. Goats should not have unlimited access to a very palatable feed when hungry. Any change in diet should be made gradually over 7-10 days.

Purina Mills research has shown the potential risk of bloat can be reduced by feeding smaller amounts of feed more frequently during the day. The risk for bloat increases significantly when goats are hungry and are allowed to eat large amounts of good quality feed at one time.

In the event goats are extremely hungry, Purina Mills’ researchers suggest first feeding a poor quality grass hay to reduce appetite before providing small amounts of good quality feed or pasture.