When the abomasum gets trapped under the rumen...

My mind wanders while on the road, driving from one call to the next. I am always thinking about the possibilities of what lies in store with the next animal on the calls list.

The next one that I was going to was at Tommy and Joe’s, brothers who farmed well, on the banks of a small river.

The road got smaller and smaller as I neared the farm. “We’ve got a cow that’s not herself” Tommy had said. “She’s calved a bit, but she never picked up after it”.

When I arrived, following the pleasantries, I got stuck into the clinical examination.

I always follow the same routine regardless of how obvious the situation might seem in case there may be something else going on.

In this case the cow was suffering from a displacement of the abomasum. This is the fourth stomach in the ruminant and is the one which has the most freedom of movement.

In veterinary college it was thought that this stomach fell in under the main stomach, filling the void that was left by a big calf when the cow had calved. Now research has brought the thinking that it is more of a dietary problem. Statistics show that this problem, commonly known as an LDA, happens more frequently in cows that are “overfat” at calving.

Some authorities recommend a body condition score of 3 at calving. Others recommend 3.25, while more hit the target at 2.75 to 3.00.

Whichever BCS you decide on, you definitely do not want your cows calving down with a condition score of 3.5 or more, as science has shown cows calving down with condition scores of 3.5 and over will be more susceptible to a host of production diseases, including the LDA.

When the abomasum gets trapped under the rumen, it gradually fills with the gas it normally produces.

The pipes into and out of the trapped abomasum are kinked, and the gas cannot escape.

The stomach thus becomes like a balloon and gradually rises up the left hand side between the rumen and the wall of the abdomen.

Obviously, the digestive workings are greatly upset. The animal feels full, as very little is passing beyond the abomasum. Every now and then, some material does move on, and the cow eats a little, and then stops. Since the digestive system is not working great, the cow turns to her own fat supplies to provide energy for herself, but this is not an efficient way of doing things, as the by-products produced cause an acidosis which further compounds the situation by decreasing her appetite.

When we get to see such a cow, it may be pretty obvious from the sounds we hear through the stethoscope that this is an LDA. Other times, we may not hear anything obvious, and it is down to the experience of the clinician to make a call.

In the past, these cows were “rolled”; some of them came good, while others did not.

In my time, surgery has become the norm for dealing with such cases.

A variety of methods are used to perform this surgery. Some surgeons go in on the left side and push the abomasum back into place; others go in on the right and pull it back.

Mid-line entry or going in on both sides are options.

All surgeries pin the stomach in place so that it should not happen again. Fluid therapy and a dietary regime should be followed to help the cow get back eating properly again.

Paul Redmond, MVB MRCVS Cert DHH, Duntahane Veterinary Clinic, Fermoy, member practice of Prime Health Vets.

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