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Displaced Abomasum

The abomasum of the dairy cow/buffalo is normally located on the right ventral abdominal wall. The term displaced abomasum refers to repositioning of the abomasal compartment (also called twisted stomach). The twisting associated with this repositioning effectively slows or stops the flow of digesta through the GI tract. The gas buildup (whether leading to this condition or as a result of this condition) leads to a characteristic bloat appearance. Pinging is detected with or sometimes without a stethoscope by thumping the animal near the last rib and listening on the left flank. Right side displaced abomasums are more serious (more complete torsion) and more difficult to treat because they almost always require surgical intervention. Most of the displacements (85 to 90%) are left-sided.

Many factors are associated with an increased risk of displaced abomasum. Over two-thirds of cases are preceded a different metabolic disorder or disease. Hypocalcaemia decreases gut motility and may allow an increased gas production in the abomasum. An increased risk is associated with high grain or maize silage feeding prior to calving, and animals with high body condition scores at calving are at more risk of displacements than are properly


conditioned animals. High grain result in increased VFA flow through the abomasum, which decreases abomasal contractility, contributing to the incidence of this condition. Abomasal displacement can also occur following sudden ration changes. Many think that anything that allows space in body cavity for the abomasum to migrate, increases the chances of clinical displacement. During late pregnancy, the omental attachments to the abomasum become stretched. The degree of stretching may be related the risk of later displacement. The genetics of the animal also affects predisposition to this disorder; the heritability has been estimated at 24% in cattle.

Diagnostic Symptoms:

  • Sudden decrease in feed intake (due to the inability of feed to leave the rumen)

  • Drastic decrease in production

  • Animal appears to be in pain and may stand with back arched

  • Displacement cases are diagnosed most in about two weeks prior to postpartum, however about 25% cases appear after this time. Heifers rarely become victim of this problem. Incidence increases through the sixth lactation and declines thereafter.

Nonsurgical treatment of the problem mainly depends on the removal of the gas from the abomasum. Rolling the animal on her back from right to left several times may allow the left side displaced abomasums.

The surgical treatment consists of getting the abomasum into place and attaching it surgically to the body wall. This technique provides a permanent solution. Successful rolling followed by the tethering of the right hind leg to force animal to lie on its left side allows a recovery rate of 87% compared to 92% for surgical intervention.

Control and Prevention:

  • Prevention of displaced abomasum is achieved very effectively by preventing other metabolic disorders.

  • Dairy animals should be in proper body condition at calving (BCS of 3.25 to 3.75) and fed to encourage at maximum intake of a well-balanced ration during the transition period.

  • Gradually shifting of dry animals to a higher energy ration

  • Limiting feeding of concentrates prior to calving; this is one view. Another view is concentrates should be fed from 3 weeks prepartum, starting at a low level up to a maximum of 3 Kg just before calving. 

  • Stabilize the rumen with adequate long fibre (2 Kg over 40 mm).

  • Avoiding overconditioning of animals

  • Providing sufficient exercise opportunities for dairy animals 

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