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Rumen gases and bloat in grazing dairy cows

  • P. J. MOATE (a1), T. CLARKE (a1), L. H. DAVIS (a1) and R. H. LABY (a1)


Results are reported from three experiments conducted at the Dairy Research Institute, Ellinbank, Australia during 1992/93 which examined the composition and kinetics of the gas in the rumen headspace of lactating dairy cows grazing white clover/perennial ryegrass pastures. Before grazing, rumen headspace gas was composed of carbon dioxide 65%, methane 31% and nitrogen 4% whereas, after one hour of active grazing, the headspace gas was composed of carbon dioxide 76%, methane 22% and nitrogen 2%. The composition of headspace gas was not affected by antibloat capsules (which release 250 mg/day of monensin). The headspace gas from bloated cows contained slightly less (P<0·01) carbon dioxide and slightly more nitrogen than that from non-bloated cows.

A novel technique which employs ethane as a tracer to measure rumen headspace volume and the kinetics of the rumen headspace gases is described. The tracer technique was used in two experiments in which the influence of grazing, antibloat capsules and bloat on the rumen headspace volume and the kinetics of the headspace gases were examined. It is concluded that our ethane tracer technique provides a simple and inexpensive way to estimate methane production by grazing ruminants.


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