The term founder is often used interchangeably with lamination. This is because both conditions are related. Founder is basically the inflammation of the lamina that encompasses the foot bone in a lacy network. This condition is known to cause devastating pain and possibly permanent damage to the foot. Cows suffering from founder often experience deformity of the hoof causing abnormal shaping and growth, including the hoof wall concavity as well as ridge formation.  Founder can be caused by various aspects including grass; as such, cows can founder on grass. The health of the sensitive lamina is therefore of the utmost importance to the overall wellbeing of the animal. Cows suffering from founder are characterised by low productivity thereby affecting the profitability of the agricultural venture.

Founder in Cattle

The term founder is used to describe the inflammation of the internal issue known as the lamina. Most farmers are familiar with this condition in horses and donkeys, however not in cows. It is therefore important to note that cows can founder on grass as well. In order to understand the occurrence of founder, farmers have to be aware of the overall structure of the lamina. This is basically a soft tissue that surrounds the hoof bone and separates the hoof wall from the bony structures of the foot.  It contains blood vessels that feed the hoof and encompasses the foot bone. These blood vessels are susceptible to toxins and poisons produced by the body or sometimes even external factors. Resultantly, the blood vessels dilate, losing blood or serum which in turn leads to increased pressure in the foot and pain. In simple terms, cows can founder on grass when poison forms in the rumen causing it to acidify killing off essential micro-organisms. Toxins then spread across the animal’s blood stream and the lamina swells up thus damaging the hoof tissues. Founder often results occurs within 24 hours of rumen disruption.

Causes of Grass Founder in Cattle

Ruminants are known to digest plant materials quite well due to the structure of their digestive system. Nonetheless, cows can founder on grass, particularly when there is poor management of the feeding system. This basically indicates the need for farmers to acquire the necessary knowledge and skillset required to keep a healthy herd and maintain a successful agricultural venture. Failure to do so exposes livestock to a range of health related issues that may limit productivity and it worse cases cows may never be as productive.  That being said, cows can founder on grass provided that there is a sudden change in their forage dietary plan. It is advisable to gradually familiarise livestock with new diets, this includes the introduction of new types of grass to the herd. This method has been proven to be amongst the most effective means of preventing lamination. Research studies reveal that cows can founder on cows when they are held on feed for too long. It is thus necessary to monitor the herd in order to make sure that they receive appropriate rations. To add on, over-consumption of excess sugar/fructan grass as well as too much starch (soluble carbohydrates) may also lead to the occurrence of founder.

Symptoms of Grass Founder in Cattle

Although the primary diet of ruminants is derived from forage, cows can founder on grass and develop some chronic changes to the foot. This is indicated by yellow discolouration of the sole, separation of the white line as well as sole ulceration and growth. Additional symptoms of founder in cattle include haemorrhages of the sole, erosion of the heel, inflamed coronary band, overgrown claw and double sole.  Note that in some cases the hoof might appear normal, however, permanent damage is still possible if the cow is not attended to accordingly. As a preventative measure, it is advisable to avoid usage of aggressive feeders as livestock can over feed resulting in the occurrence of founder in cattle. As previously emphasized, all new feedstuff should be provided in limited portions accompanied with the usual diets. The treatment method of acute cases involve use of an energy-restricted diet, soft flooring and animals should be kept moving, though not excessively. Pain relief medications are sometimes used to keep the cows moving thereby reducing the risk of lameness. A key aspect to remember is that founder in cows can be managed by preventing ruminal acidosis.

Can Cows Bloat on Grass?

Cows can founder on grass and experience bloat if the feeding system is poorly managed. Bloat is basically a digestive disorder associated with the accumulation of gas within the rumen and reticulum. Bloat occurs when the cow’s ability to release gases is impaired. As a consequence, pressure builds up in the first two compartments of the stomach. Bloat usually happens after 15 minutes to an hour after grass consumption. In some cases, it can lag up to 24 to 4 hours. Just as cows can founder on grass, it is also possible for them to bloat on grass. According to experts, bloat often occurs due to heavy feeding or grazing period. It is recommended to carefully check cows for bloat every two hours at the onset of grazing.  Other preventive measures are similar to those of lamination or founder. Anti-bloating products are also available.

Can Cows Eat Just Grass?

In the past, the dietary requirements of cows were solely sustained by grass. This is no longer the case. While grass can sustain livestock kept for subsistence, commercial cows cannot just eat grass. To be specific, lactating cows have a high metabolism which can be compared to a high performance athlete. Due to their high metabolism, it is necessary to provide lactating cows with an increased supply of feed in order to achieve maximum production. The modern cow is said to produce about 10 gallons of milk daily. This basically means that a dietary plan consisting of solely grass is not able to meet the cow’s nutritional needs. Animals are then forced to deplete their body reserves resulting in tremendous amount of weight loss. Also, since cows can founder on grass, complementary feed stuff are necessary. An ideal diet for cows should be well balanced. Grass can be ensiled with grain among other materials so as to achieve high yields.